unlimited time off, I don’t want to talk about my vacation, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I have unlimited PTO — and get asked to make up time anyway

I’m having trouble with one aspect of my new job. I am salaried and the company has an “unlimited PTO” system. I’ve worked at salaried positions for many years, but only with actual accrued PTO time. I’m the past, if I ever needed one hour or less off work (for a doctor appointment or something) I would just let a manager know and take it. Then if it was two or more hours, I would pull from my PTO hours.

In my new “unlimited PTO” job if I need an hour or less off, I’m being asked to make up the time at the end of my work day. This is really frustrating to me to be asked to work late, not because the workload calls for it, but because I had to go to the doctor. I’m always willing to stay late if the work situation calls for it, because I know that’s what you should expect as a salaried person.

I don’t know how to address this with my manager without sounding entitled. But it really rubs me the wrong way considering flexibility and unlimited PTO were selling points of the job.

That’s not unlimited PTO. That’s … no PTO at all, really.

Talk to your manager and say something like this: “A few times recently when I’ve been out for an hour for a doctor’s appointment, you’ve asked me to make up that time at the end of the day. I’m always willing to stay late when the work requires it — and in fact will do that on my own when that’s the case — but I’m surprised that PTO is handled that way because when I took this job, my understanding was that we had unlimited PTO. Can you help me understand exactly how PTO works here, if the expectation is that we’ll make up short amounts of time taken off?”

Maybe you’ll find out that the unlimited PTO is just for full-day chunks or something like that, but this is pretty weird.

2. Should I recommend my brother a third time for a job at my company?

My brother, for the past three years, has been in a terrible job halfway across the country from me. Fortunately we work in similar industries, and I asked him if I could stick his resume on our HR manager’s desk two years ago. He agreed, HR was interested, and they reached out. My brother thought about it a little more, and communicated to them that the timing wasn’t right for him to move at that time.

Fast forward a year and he tells me he’s so fed up he’s ready to try again, so I talked with HR, explained his situation, and gave them his new resume. After a month when I asked him how it was going, he said they never responded to an email from him and he assumed they lost interest. I talked with HR and they said he never responded to an email from them so they assumed he lost interest. No idea who’s right, but I’m betting someone’s spam folder ate an email at some point and both sides assumed the worst.

Now, a year later, my brother is moving to my city because his fiancee is starting grad school here, so there is no possibility of will-he-or-won’t-he-move, he’s coming here and he needs a job. Do you think it’s worth it for me to try again at my company, or has that ship sailed?

The reference isn’t likely to have a lot of credibility at this point — you’ve approached them about him twice before and (from their perspective) he lost interest, so yeah, you might be likely to strain their patience if you try a third time.

I suppose you could frame it as “there was some mutual interest in 2016 but he wasn’t ready to move. I know he tried again last year but it sounded like an email on one side or the other got lost and nothing panned out. He’s now definitely moving and would love to talk if you’re still interested, although I wasn’t sure if that shipped had sailed.”

That said, I’m not thrilled with your brother asking you for this exact same favor a third time, so it might be that it makes more sense to have him apply on his own without you facilitating the process.

3. I don’t want to talk about my vacation at a staff meeting

My work holds an annual event every year in a different city that more than half the office is required to travel to and work at. The event this year took place in late April, about 800 miles from where I live. A coworker who has become a friend asked me and another coworker/friend if we wanted to rent a car and road-trip back instead of flying home. Our employer pays for flights, hotels, and meals during the event, and it’s customary for employees to take at least a couple days off after the event to explore that year’s city or travel to other destinations. My friend spoke with her supervisor, the event manager, and asked if they’d pay for the car. The supervisor said they would as long as the cost of the car didn’t exceed what our flights home collectively would have cost. Since we were only planning a four-day trip, it came in under budget, and we were given the green light.

We’re now back from the trip and back in the office. Earlier today, the CEO made a comment to me in passing about how he’s looking forward to seeing our pictures from the trip. The subtext of that was that we’d be showing them during an all-staff meeting — to everyone. (The practice of showing vacation or wedding pictures during a staffing meeting is something that has become more common in recent years, coinciding with the CEO trying to make the office more fun). I made a joke about all of our phones breaking, meaning we wouldn’t have any pictures to show, and he said something like “I don’t think so!” or “Nice try!” in a sing-songy voice. Later I talked to my friend, the one whose supervisor runs our big event, and she said he essentially told her that he is expecting us to give a presentation on our trip during the next meeting in two weeks.

I’m really annoyed by this. The trip was a personal vacation that I want to discuss with very select people — I have no interest in talking about it even superficially, for five minutes, in front of the whole office. Does the CEO think that since the company paid for the car (but not gas, our Airbnbs, or food or drink) that he and the rest of the staff are entitled to hear about it?

The CEO works extremely closely with my friend and her supervisor (but not at all with me and our other friend who went on the trip), so I suppose that’s why we’re being treated differently. But it’s not fair — what’s clearly been an elective for others is now a requirement for us. I want to get us out of it (and not just myself either but all of us, since that wouldn’t be fair to the other two). What can I say that will make our CEO see the light?

I doubt he thinks that the company is entitled to all the details since they paid for the car. It’s more likely that he assumes this is all in good fun and hasn’t stopped to consider that you really don’t want to participate — but that doesn’t mean that he’ll continue to push it when you make it more clear that you’re not up for it.

I do think, though, that you’ll need to suck it up and say a sentence or two about the trip; that’s part of maintaining decent relationships in an office that knows you and some coworkers took a trip together. But it can be bland and vague, like “Yes, Jane, Lucinda, and I drove back together. We had a nice time.” If you’re pushed for details or photos, say, “There’s nothing really to report. We’re boring!” (But it sounds like you might need to talk with the other two first to make sure they’re not going to surprise you with their own detailed accounts, if you don’t want them to do that.)

The alternative would be talking to the CEO or your manager ahead of time and asking them not to make this into a thing at the meeting … but that’s probably making it into a bigger deal than makes sense, when you can just go to the bland and boring route at the meeting if you need to.

4. How do I explain a lengthy absence from work after my estranged husband’s suicide?

About six months ago, I separated from my abusive husband. My workplace has been wonderful, granting me compassionate leave when I first fled with my children to a safe house, letting me work part-time whilst I was temporarily away from home, then supporting me again when he attempted suicide just before Christmas. During this time, I was very open with my line manager and her boss, and they in turn have been incredibly sensitive and supportive. 

Sadly, my ex took his own life three weeks ago, in a very violent manner, just as I was coming to the end of a week’s annual leave. I went back into work the following week, but I was still in a state of shock and it was clear that I wasn’t in a fit state to work. I did at that point tell my two work colleagues what had happened. I was given a further two weeks compassionate leave, which was extended to a third week to cover the period of the funeral.

I’m now preparing to return to work next week. I’m definitely ready to go back; I love my job, and I think I’m ready for the distraction from what happened. I’ve been in touch with my manager and have been told that they haven’t told people what has happened, just that I will need a lot of support over the coming weeks, and that I will be on light duties only for a while.

I’m not a dishonest person, and I’m not even capable of telling a white lie, so I’m really worried about how to handle things when people ask me about my absence (to be clear, all my work colleagues are lovely and will be asking out of concern for my health rather than gossip). But I don’t really know what to say. What happened was really awful and shocking, and even just keeping it to the bare facts (“my ex took his own life”) is a really shocking thing to hear. But I don’t want to brush it off as “I’ve not been well” because that’s not the truth. I’m also worried that I will get upset when trying to explain. Although I’m in a better place than I was three weeks ago, I’m still a long way from being alright. If you have any advice on how I can navigate this tricky situation, I would be very grateful.

If you’re more comfortable with it, you can avoid specifics and be as vague as you want. For example, you could simply say, “There was a death in my family” or “My husband and I are recently separated and he passed away suddenly” or “I had a family emergency” or whatever you’re most comfortable with. It’s not lying not to share details you’re not up for talking about. If anyone pushes for details, you can say, “Thank you so much for your concern — it’s been a rough time and I’m not ready to talk about it, but I’m hanging in” or any other “thanks but not now” response that works for you.

I’m sorry you’re going through this.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Can I resubmit a revised, better resume to jobs I applied for recently?

I found your site after googling “why am I not getting interviews?” and was struck by your post about resumes and cover letters almost always being the problem. I haven’t looked for a job in 10+ years, so reading through your site has been a lifesaver. My resume and cover letter is now 1,000 times better than before (it was mostly just a list of tasks). The old version didn’t reflect that I’m a tip top performer in every job AND I’m the kind of person who anticipates problems and solves them before her boss ever finds out about the potential issue.

The problem is that I wish I had found your advice sooner. I want to switch careers, and the type of position I am after does not come up very often. I already sent off cover letters and resumes to a few choice listings in the past month or so using the “meh” resume. I would LOVE to erase those from existence and submit new, revamped versions that I wrote using your advice (the postings are still live). I haven’t received anything beyond an acknowledgment of application, though, and I wonder if I’ve already been rejected. Is there is any point in resubmitting? Will they think I am disorganized, odd, or desperate for doing so? These are niche-y, kind of trendy jobs for which I feel very well qualified and excited, and I’m concerned there will not be many more openings soon.

This is the kind of thing where I’d normally say “no, you can’t really do that, you only get one bite at the apple,” etc. And it’s true that most of the time, you shouldn’t do that. I definitely don’t want a bunch of candidates to send me multiple versions of their resumes. But if you’ve really significantly revamped your resume (as opposed to changing a few lines here and there), it’s not likely to hurt you if you resubmit and say something like, “Apologies for the second application, but I’m hoping this revised resume may better demonstrate my ability to excel in the X role.”

You may mildly annoy someone and/or they may not bother with the second resume, but it might be worth that risk. If you’re switching careers and you sent in a meh resume initially, your chances of the initial application leading to an interview are pretty low anyway (because career switching is always a hard sell), so there’s not necessarily a lot to lose here, and potentially something to gain by submitting materials that show you in a different light.

{ 424 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I can’t even imagine.

    It’s totally ok to say there was a “death in the family” or an “unexpected death.” You don’t have to be specific, and it’s not a white lie to be oblique. Just keep things vague but factual, and think about practicing a few different responses with a trusted friend or family member (or even your mirror). The more you practice, the less jarring it will feel when/if questions arise at work.

    Again, I’m so sorry.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Agreed with all of the above. “Died suddenly” is a good phrase to have handy—“My ex died suddenly” or “My husband died suddenly.” If people ask how he died, it is fine to say you don’t feel comfortable talking about it. No one is going to hold that against you.

      You can combine oblique phrases with some of the other techniques people are offering below, like having someone else spread the news or writing an email to your team. Most people will get the hint, and if you practice like Princess Consuela Banana Hammock recommends, you will be prepared to handle the people who don’t.

      The other thing is that if you’re up for it, it is fine to tell people what happened, e.g. “I’m not doing great. Fergus committed suicide a few weeks ago, so I’ve been dealing with all the logistics, and it’s been really tough.” If you don’t want to tell people, that’s fine, but it sounds like some of your reluctance comes from not wanting to shock or upset other people. It is totally okay to tell people what happened if you decide that’s what you want—and although this is upsetting news, the script above is not oversharing or inappropriate.

      1. OP4*

        Thank you, I think this is the form of words I was looking for. And you are right, I’m concerned about upsetting others (and then perhaps upsetting myself – one of the hardest things to deal with is other people’s reactions).

        1. ainomiaka*

          Particularly if you know they’re asking out of concern, people at your work who know you’ve been on leave are prepared on some level that the answers to any questions can be upsetting. That doesn’t mean you have to manage anything you don’t want to, but I do think that “never upsetting anyone” is a more strenuous goal than you necessarily need. Do what you need to do to get through everything.

          1. Snark*

            Yeah, in this case, I’d not be too worried about not upsetting people. What you want to avoid, OP4, is the kind of upset you’re going to feel like reassuring them about, which is more emotional work than you need right now.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            You might want to practice saying this aloud, BTW – with another person, if there’s someone you don’t mind rehearsing with. Sometimes saying something aloud intensifies the emotional response of the speaker. At least it sure does me. For many people – and again, I am definitely one of those people, but YMMV – saying something aloud is harder than thinking it, and saying it aloud to other people is harder still.

            And I am so very sorry.

        2. eplawyer*

          Wanting to not upset others is a perfectly normal reaction to your situation. However, you are allowed to not upset yourself first. If your co-workers are as caring as you say, the oblique answer will tell them you don’t want to go into detail. They probably won’t press further. If it comes up at all. Most likely you will get “are you okay?” or “do you need anything?” To which you just reply “I’m doing okay, thank you.” and “Not at this time, thank you.”

        3. Batshua*

          It’s also very okay to say “… and I really don’t want to talk about it”.

          “My ex died recently/recently/suddenly/unexpectedly, and I don’t want to dwell on/talk about/discuss/think about it.”

          “It’s still really upsetting to me, so I’d rather focus on work instead. I organized my sock drawer over the weekend! What about you?”

          Anyone who pushes after that is being creepy.

          1. LQ*

            A swift direction change will work well for all but the worst people. Nearly everyone gets “I don’t really want to talk about it” followed by “Where is the TPS report at?”

          2. LKW*

            Also use the word “Uncomfortable” or “Upsetting” – as in “Discussing the situation is very upsetting” or “I’m uncomfortable discussing this in detail, but I appreciate your concern.”

            Draw a boundary – most people don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or upset so if you lay it out there – people should respect it. If they don’t – Batshua is right -it’s creepy.

        4. Tardigrade*

          Tell your coworkers whatever is most comfortable/least upsetting for yourself. You might even tell them you are hoping working provides a distraction from it, which I hope it does.

        5. Pinkie Pie Chart*

          Another suggestion is asking your manager (or someone you trust) to tell people before you go back. Then everyone knows and you don’t have to be the one to talk about it. That probably won’t catch everyone, but it will limit the number of times you have to say anything.

        6. KTM*

          A close friend of mine recently had a miscarriage and she said she stopped sharing that news with people because she was getting tired of providing emotional support over their emotional reaction rather than receiving support from them, so I totally understand that concern. I think being vague about ‘death in the family’ would receive a more general ‘oh I’m so sorry’ rather than the reaction you might receive with details.

      2. Snark*

        It’s going to be a tough nut to crack, because OP4 needs to give enough information to satisfy people, without giving so much information that they demand her emotional labor. I really like the idea of having a trusted work friend or boss spread the news – or some version of it – ahead of time, so that people understand at least that she’s been through a really traumatic loss and she doesn’t have to tell 35 people about it.

        1. peachie*

          I don’t agree–I really don’t think it’s appropriate for their boss/coworkers to disseminate that information to everyone. I understand that you are implying “with OP’s permission,” but I still think that this won’t achieve what OP wants, which is to talk about this as little as possibe.

          Maybe I’ve just worked in extraordinarily respectful workplaces, but OP, I think that saying, “There was a death in the family” is PLENTY. I once had to take a few weeks off for a medical emergency, and no one asked me a thing about it–all I heard was a few “I hope you’re feeling better.” I think most people know that a vague response like that is code for “I don’t want to talk about it,” while bringing up more specifics–like “Ex-husband died suddenly”–could invite more questions from well-meaning coworkers.

          (That’s not to say you can’t go into more detail–it would be fine to do so–but it seems that your goal is to minimize any discussion about this, and I think the least-specific option will serve you best.)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Eh, having people spread this kind of news has worked very well at my workplace, especially if the person spreading the news adds “and she doesn’t really want to talk about it.” People who don’t know what’s going on may ask about the absence out of concern, but not if they already know what happened.

            1. peachie*

              That makes sense! I’m glad that that has worked out in your workplace (and I’m sure I’ll be in an office someday where that’s the best tactic, so thank you).

            2. Snark*

              Exactly. And then, if you say “Well, my estranged husband killed himself” they’ll be so shocked and appalled by that in the moment that it’ll be an even bigger thing, whereas if they hear about it ahead of time, they’ll get over their own reaction and be able to behave constructively around her.

            3. SarahKay*

              Agreed. A work friend lost her father unexpectedly, and so was off work for a couple of weeks. She asked her manager to let co-workers know why she was off, and that (when she returned) she didn’t want to discuss it at work, she just wanted to carry on as normal.
              She didn’t want to have to cope with people trying to show sympathy, however well-meaning they were; she just wanted work to be a break / distraction from her loss.

              1. Chinook*

                I think it is also important that people understand that the OP is dealing with a death (and doesn’t want to discuss it) because it would explain if she is not 100% mentally there when she comes back. Being away to deal with an emergency and/or tragedy means that this may affect your work in ways that are unexpected and, hopefully, people will be sympathetic if something slips through the cracks or willing to offer an extra hand with the TPS report if she asks because she is feeling overwhelmed. It also means that, if paperwork crosses my desk for her for things like leave or pay requests, I will double check to ensure that everything is to her benefit (which is what I did when we had 3 guys leave for a family funeral who didn’t realize that they could have 3 days paid leave on top of their vacation request).

                For me, when I am told something like this, I still treat the person normally but am aware that they suddenly may become more emotional (whether tearful or short tempered) or spaced out and not aware that it has leaked into work. It gives context to unusual behaviour. Does that make sense?

          2. LQ*

            Even if “There was a death in the family.” is enough, it’s exhausting to say to everyone who only knows you were out for a couple weeks and who is pleasantly saying they hope you had a nice time off, or what did you do for your vacation, or are you feeling rejuvenated? Just passing around that OP was off because of a death in the family can take a chunk of emotional labor off. I’ve worked at respectful workplaces too, but the only place where I just handle it all myself all the time worked was when there were 2 of us. But now I work in multiple departments and with a lot of people. And if someone looked at my calendar to schedule something they’d see that I was out, and then they’d warmly ask if I had a good time off and if I read anything good. And then the next and the next and the next. A couple people passing around “a death in the family” can make it so I only have to have that conversation 4-5 times instead of 25 times.

            1. peachie*

              Hm, interesting. This is why I’m thinking my office experience has been non-representative–I worked in a pretty big office where everyone knew I was out for a non-vacation reason, and I don’t think ANYONE asked me why. It was just really a part of the culture that you didn’t ask questions like that. (It was a friendly office, and some people certainly shared more, but it wasn’t expected.)

              Thinking about it more, I do think a general “OP is out due to a family emergency/family death” would be appropriate and helpful (with OP’s permission, of course).

              1. Snark*

                The other thing that comes to my mind is, there’s already been kind of a “hey, OP4 went through a big thing lately, and will need lots of support and minimal duties for a few weeks” communication made, and it’ll be human nature to want to know why and wherefore.

            2. Chalupa Batman*

              For exactly this reason I leave it at “I’m glad you’re back!” when someone returns from an absence unless I already know they were on vacation-it would be weird not to acknowledge a 3 week absence, but my statement doesn’t require any explanation. If they want to tell me about it, the opening is there. If not, “thanks-how about those TPS reports?” is a perfectly normal response.

          3. Temperance*

            LW was on vacation when she found out that her ex died, though, so there will be people who might think she just took a super great vacation, not realizing what happened. I think Snark’s advice is good here.

        2. AKchic*

          Actually, OP4 doesn’t need to give anyone anything. It’s not OP4’s responsibility to give anyone any information if she doesn’t want to. Coworkers aren’t owed any personal information. They know she was out for a personal reason. That’s all they need to know. Anything else is jam and tea and sugar to go with the bare bread and water of the information the management has given them in order to continue functioning in the workplace. Any additional information OP4 gives them is personal details.

          I’m not advocating one way or the other. This is 100% on OP4 to decide whether or not she wants coworker support right now. Some coworkers won’t be good support. Some might be. I can remember my own previous coworkers when I left my abusive ex. They were not good support. My manager was at first, but when she started getting harassed, it became untenable and I ended up leaving, not just for my safety, but for my coworkers’ safety as well. This is not OP4’s situation, obviously; but depending on her office’s rumor mill, she may not want to put too much out, which is why she hasn’t shared much of the details of her situation already.

          OP4 – I feel for you. I know its hard and confusing and you’ll feel conflicted. You will get through this. *hug*

        3. kh*

          +1. Totally agree it should be whatever OP #4 is most comfortable with, just that this could be an option they could see if they’re comfortable with. My boss gathered our team around to tell us when our coworker’s husband passed away. Obviously there’s a very practical, logistical aspect to this — Everyone understands that Jane is going to be out for some time so some tasks may get shuffled around, when she comes back she might need some time to ramp into her previous level of work productivity, etc. — but more importantly I got the impression that it was marginally (marginally, marginally, marginally, which is sometimes all you can do) easier for her knowing that that everyone on the team knew rather than having to figure out how to tell everyone when she got back to work, or wondering if maybe some people knew and some didn’t. So anyway, as far as I can tell without totally speaking for her, it seems like it worked for her. Doesn’t mean OP #4 has to do it if they don’t want to, but an option that’s out there.

      3. Adele*

        I agree with Turanga Leela’s third paragraph. I realize how hard this is for you but it may, in the end, be easier to just address this head on. “My husband died suddenly” can lead to a lot of question. Saying “My ex-husband committed suicide. It was a shock and the kids and I have been having a hard time” is straight forward.

        Your estranged husband committed suicide. You have nothing of which to be ashamed. Many people have dealt with something similar or have other terrible problems with family members. They are unlikely to be shocked, just sympathetic and concerned about your and your children.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Replying to Adele: my experience after losing someone to suicide was different. When people know the cause of his death, they project onto him every general idea they have about suicide (whether or not they fit him well) in ways I find alienating and exhausting to deal with. I only disclose when I have the energy to deal with that. In the immediate aftermath of his death, those conversations were often traumatic.

      4. JSPA*

        it may be a bit period piece mystery novel, but “Fergus came to a nasty end. Please let’s talk about anything else” gives full information, strong redirection, and is entirely devoid of details. The fact that it’s a bit literary may even give you useful emotional distance.

        And have an “anything else” topic of your own ready to go, if they don’t pick up the conversational thread.

    2. Ellery*

      I agree with this and a lot of what’s been said here. I actually have this conversation with people a lot. My father committed suicide almost 13 years ago, but it’s a conversation that keeps happening as I meet new people. Most people are satisfied with me just saying my father had died, or that he’d died suddenly. I don’t know what they think that means, but eh. The closer I get to people the more details I give them.

      It’s a conversation that gets easier with time. I know when the death is recent, vocalizing it can be very hard. Being vague or noping out of a conversation about it are perfectly fine things to do. You’re healing. Your kids are healing. Being concerned about how other people take the news is also okay. I’ll often not tell people because I know their heart will break a little for me. It really is easier for me to say than it is for people to hear, so if you don’t want to tell them for that reason, that’s fine too.

      This is a minor issue, but you will probably begin to realize how often people around you joke about suicide. This happens in a lot of different little ways, and if it bothers you (it bothers me) it is perfectly okay to ask them to stop. You don’t even need to tell them why it bothers you. For me, “please don’t joke about suicide” is often enough, because you’ve pointed out what they are doing, and they realize it’s something they probably don’t actually want to do.

      1. OP4*

        Thank you so much everyone for your thoughtful and helpful replies. I’ve done my first day back and it went well. I didn’t get much time to respond during the day but I checked in a couple of times and found a lot of the advice really helpful.
        I found a form of words which is working well for me to explain my absence – “I was on compassionate leave.” It says everything and nothing without me having to follow it up with “…and I don’t want to discuss it” as that’s implied. I am also (following your advice) preparing myself with a follow up comment moving the conversation on (today’s has been the weather over the long weekend!) and so far this has worked well.
        The nature of my role is that I have a lot of brief contacts with people from all over my organisation, so I’m fully expecting a few “did you have a good holiday?” comments – so I feel much better prepared to handle those.

  2. neverjaunty*

    OP #4, I’m so sorry you are going through this. I am sure the the people you work with will continue being supportive – this was your ex’s final act of violence and of course it’s difficult and shocking to discuss.

  3. HannahS*

    OP4, what a terrible situation! I just want to emphasize that telling the truth doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to tell the whole truth (though you might add “But my kids and I are hanging in there,” so that no one assumes it’s one of your kids). Even in less shocking situations than yours–say, if someone’s elderly parent dies from a disease that they’ve had for a long time–it’s not lying or hiding the truth if the person doesn’t want to share the details, and just says, “I was away because there was a death in the family/I was dealing with a family emergency.” That’s the truth! And when you say stuff like what Alison suggested, reasonable people take the cue to offer condolences and understand that if you’ve given non-specific information, they shouldn’t pry. If anyone does, it’s fine to say “I’d rather talk about work right now, thanks.”

  4. Elizabeth*

    Dear LW#4, I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I also lost a husband from whom I was separated to suicide. Solidarity.

    My best advice: tell someone (your supervisor?) ahead of time that you’d like people at work to know that you experienced a death in the family and do not wish to talk about it at work.

    I predict that even answering questions vaguely and blandly might be very hard for a while, and some people will ask follow ups you don’t want to answer. Let work be your respite from this situation. Tell people what you need, which is not to talk about the death.

    That’s just my advice. Whatever you do, best of luck and I’ll be thinking about you.

    1. Glowcat*

      Yes, I was also thinking that the supervisor could talk to the team and briefly explain what happened, so that OP doesn’t have to do it herself until she feels ready. At my last workplace it happened a few times when someone lost a parent, and this situation is so much harder.
      OP4, I’m very sorry for you. I wish you all the strength you need to go through this.

    2. OP4*

      I’m sorry you’ve been through this too. Going back to the supervisor would have been ideal; unfortunately the “next week” referred to in the letter is now today so there isn’t time to ask them first. But I will try to follow your advice to let them know that I don’t want to discuss further.

      1. Snark*

        And you can be blunt about that! It doesn’t need to be sugar-coated. “I’d like to get through the day, so I can’t get into the details about it right now.” “This is really tough, and I can’t talk about it.”

      2. MLB*

        If you don’t want to provide or talk about any details, I would offer a simple “I appreciate your concern, but I’d rather not talk about it” would be just fine. I think providing any details (death in the family/family emergency) invites more questions that you don’t want to answer right now.

        1. GG Two shoes*

          I agree with your wording. When my mom passed away suddenly, we didn’t know exactly what it was at first so the expectation was that when we knew we would tell everyone. It ended up being alcohol poisoning which has a real negative connotation for some people so in the end when folks (including my boss) circled back to ask I responded with “Sorry, I really don’t want to talk about that.”

      3. Emmie*

        I am very sorry you’re going through this. I suggest telling people who ask that you’ve experienced a death in the family, you don’t want to talk about it, you like the distraction that work provides, and ask them to help spread the message. I did something similar when I ended an engagement under similar circumstances (minus the death, which must be much more difficult.) I told the office gossiper a similar message, and asked her to spread the word. I received hardly any questions.

    3. You don't know me*

      I second this. When my father passed away, I asked my manager to tell everyone before I returned to work that I did not want to talk about it. AT ALL. Only one person was crass enough to try and bring it up and dig for details as to why I had been out so unexpectedly for a week.

  5. LouiseM*

    OP#3, you will come off really oddly if you push back on this. Your joke about your camera breaking was just fine (and I probably would have said something similar, since I’m also private), but if you beg off any more you will appear weirdly defensive to the point of being hostile at best or suspicious at worst. Tell a couple of anecdotes about the road trip, pull up a picture or two on your phone, and move on with your life.

    1. On Fire*

      +1. Absolutely refusing to talk about the trip has the potential to start gossip: “Hmm, just what DID they do on that trip, that they’re too embarrassed to mention?”

      Keep it short, but friendly. A couple of pics, a breezy “oh, we had a blast. Drove through some beautiful countryside,” sounds like it will go a long way in your particular office culture.

      1. Washi*

        Or if you really don’t want to share any pictures, can you choose one generic anecdote to tell? “We got super hungry in Oklahoma and stopped at a steakhouse for lunch. It was decorated with old license plates and there was a huge deer head mounted on the wall that stared at us while we ate!!”

        I agree that you need to throw them a bone, and you can definitely find ways to do that without having to divulge a lot of personal information.

        1. LQ*

          The one generic anecdote is the biggest thing I wish someone had told me earlier in life. It is absolutely my go to now. I used to assume that people wanted to know the sorts of things I wanted to know, but most of the time they do just want to acknowledge your humanness and for you to acknowledge theirs. This type of bonding does not require baring of souls (as I used to think and still struggle with occasionally) but just bland anecdotes for which humanness can be acknowledged and shared. And also it’s faster to have one good anecdote for a trip.

          1. a1*

            Exactly. Talking about a personal trip doesn’t mean you have to get personal – i.e. you don’t have to share deep thoughts or meaning or how you bonded or what have you. Just some surface details – “We ate at this great little diner in Town X” or “We drove past so many corn fields. Oh, the corn!”. That’s it. Easy peasy.

          2. Thursday Next*

            “Most of the time they do just want to acknowledge your humanness and for you to acknowledge theirs.” THIS! A million times this! It is what underpins a lot of social pleasantries, and is therefore relatively easy to satisfy.

            Washi’s generic anecdote suggestion is spot on.

          3. Galatea*

            This is such a good way to put it!

            I run across a surprising number of people who talk about small talk being demeaning or pointless, but ultimately at its core it’s some kind of “I see you’re a person and not an automaton” interaction; it doesn’t need to be deep or life changing, it’s just a chance to see someone and be seen in return.

            1. Chinook*

              The way small talk has been described to me is that it is a type of social lubricant. When applied too little, things grind to a halt, too liberally can make things messy but, when used correctly, things run smoothly and efficiently.

        2. Kelsi*

          This. I didn’t realize I was doing it for the longest time, but I am the QUEEN of the “infodump about something relevant so that nobody notices you’re not actually sharing anything personal.” It’s my natural self-defense as a private person. I can talk for as long as anyone wants to listen about that weird guy I saw wearing a panda costume at Town Hall on Saturday, and nobody notices that I didn’t tell them about anything I actually DID this weekend.

          (I do this a lot when it comes to stuff about dating. As an aromantic person with a queerplatonic partner, I’m not interested in sharing only for people to tell me I’m confused/they knew I wasn’t REALLY aromantic/it’s so cute that we’re taking things so slow/other uneducated bullshit. So instead I hare off on some story about when my parents were first dating or oh, that reminds me about [Celebrity]’s new guy, or whatever. The transition requires a little practice so that people don’t realize you’re doing it, but once you get that down, all you have to do is infodump and people never realize)

            1. Kelsi*

              Haha, a lot of it comes automatically to me–I’m a storyteller and infodumper by nature. I get it from my grandmother!

              Here’s how it usually happens:
              Them: Oh, Kelsi, what are you up to this weekend?
              Me: (going to do something I don’t want to talk about at work) Oh, did you see the advertisements for that craft show on Saturday? Have you ever been, is it worth going to? Because I swear, I’ve been to so many bad ones. There was the one time where… [start a story about bad craft fairs I’ve been to]
              Them: [fails to notice I never said I was going to the craft fair, feels like they got an answer, also forgets to probe further by the time I’m done talking!]

              Them: Oooh, what are you guys doing for Valentine’s day? Is [Partner] going to take you out?
              Me: Ugh, Valentine’s day, I’m so over it after those terrible billboards that have been up for a month. Did you see them? [Launches into a story about the billboards that literally said “Have you gotten any lately?” over a picture of a flower bouquet, and a rant about the weird sexist bullshit surrounding Valentines day)

              It apparently works. People seem surprised to learn I’m a private person, because they think I’ve been sharing all along.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            I read “aromatic” at first as “having an aroma” and was very confused as to why your smelliness mattered in your relationship status… got it on the third readthrough!

            1. Kelsi*

              LOL, I triple-checked it before posting, because I have definitely typo’d to aromatic on occasion.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        YES…to your first sentence. My thought was did you spend the trip doing blow and hanging out with hookers? I’m being facetious, of course, but it’s definitely odd to be so private about a trip that seems pretty run of the mill. I’d also add that if you really didn’t take a lot of pics (or just don’t want to show them because you don’t like them, look a little rough, etc.) you could always add in pics you found online of destinations you visited like the outside of a neat/quirky restaurant, pics of their menu with unique offerings, pics of local landmarks/statues, pics of trails you hiked, etc.

        You can share very bland, run of the mill details with your co-workers about your vacation and so many other topics that make them feel included, for lack of a better term, without sacrificing your privacy. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just keep it G rated and generic and you should be fine.

        1. OP3*

          Haha. Actually by that measure, the nights off during our work event were WAY crazier than our personal trip (I heard a strip club visit was made by some …). I just don’t think this presentation should be a requirement and that bothers me on principle. Call me crotchety, but forced bonding really bothers me. Also I mention below that I have a significant public speaking phobia, so I’ll probably be super anxious beforehand and may even have to take a beta blocker so I can actually get words out. :(

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            My sympathies to you for the anxiety; do what you need to do to keep yourself comfortable.
            As for what to share, some of the other commenters have shared some interesting ideas about being bland, so maybe follow those ideas and go big with the bland.
            You may need new pictures: Vacation Day 1: A convenience store gas pump where you filled up for your trip; the highway through the windshield; Day 2, the highway through the windshield, a fast food joint where you stopped for food, the squirrel you fed your leftover fries to; Day 3, the highway through the windshield, a clip from the website of a hotel where you stayed; Day 4, the highway through the windshield, a billboard from just outside your town as you were arriving back home. Just pick common, boring, almost unidentifiable common stuff from a road trip. But only if you or your coworkers/co-vacationers feel up to doing something like this and only if your office would think it was funny.
            And it might help to think of it as a boring required business presentation, not a “command performance”. Just have a list in your hand of the few bland things you are sharing and just go through your list, like you would if you were sharing the data from the TPS report.
            Good luck!

          2. BenAdminGeek*

            That stinks, OP3. I agree with others above on using stock/web photos. It is annoying that it’s being forced, but try to imagine it as a small book report about some places that were visited by someone, and that might help.

            Someone who overshares and therefore may be giving you bad advice because this stuff doesn’t bother me.

          3. tangerineRose*

            Maybe you can leave the talking to one of the other people who made the trip? A phobia makes a big difference.

            I don’t get why the CEO cares so much about this – seems over the top to me, but it doesn’t seem like a good hill to die on.

    2. Mrs Pitts*

      If part of your drive was particularly boring, you could joke about that and even give them a googled image. “We saw lots of corn while driving through Iowa.”
      *I apologize if I offend anyone from Iowa, I’m sure it is a lovely state. I do remember a lot of corn fields as I drove through it many years ago.

      1. Beatrice*

        I’m from Iowa, and I’ll have you know there is more to the state than corn. We have soybean fields, too!

        1. nonymous*

          and pigs! iirc, there are more pigs per square mile than humans :-)

          (also home of the first automatic electronic digital computer – link in name)

      2. CM*

        I was thinking about generic images too, if you aren’t comfortable sharing your personal photos — like “We saw Mount Rushmore” and then show them a picture of Mount Rushmore.

        1. Seriously?*

          Slide show of generic google images seems like a good bet. It covers what you saw and is very not personal. It will probably be boring, but maybe then he won’t ask again.

          1. LKW*

            Yes – you can even make up stories to go along with it. “This is the statehouse. We saw a bird eat a cigarette” “This is the Biggest Ball of twine in the state. It is not the biggest ball of twine in the country, that ball is found in some other place.” “We ate dinner at this place. They raise all of the animals on the neighboring farm. We had ostrich. The waiter told us they do name the animals, it’s name was George. It tasted like turkey.” “This donut shop only serves three types of donuts. The couple who run it are originally from Brooklyn and won’t accept money – they only accept trade/bartering. Louisa gave them the scarf she was wearing and they gave us three donuts.”

            1. Eye of the Hedgehog*

              Did you get all three different types of donuts for the scarf or three of the same? :)

            2. LBK*

              The thing is, I don’t think there’s a way to do this without seeming like just as much of a brat (for lack of a better word) about having to do the assignment as if you just didn’t do it. Malicious compliance is usually pretty transparent, and I don’t think your boss is really going to be more satisfied than if you’d just stuck to saying you really don’t want to share your personal vacation.

            3. Mamunia*

              “We saw a bird eat a cigarette”

              I loled in my lunchroom. Good thing I’m alone in here ;)

            4. jo*

              OP, don’t actually do the above because holy cow, LKW, that was entertaining! The OP’s CEO would want them to repeat the performance after every vacation.

        2. Not a Morning Person*

          Great tips! (you all posted before I got this far, I like your ideas!)

    3. Penny Lane*

      By the time it took to write this letter and read through the responses, one could have easily taken a few pictures off the internet and crafted a boring story about driving through East Bumble. This is not worth expending political capital over. Too small potatoes.

    4. Meg*

      Agreed. Manager is being annoying, but if you are too squirrelly about it, people will think something weird happened. And that will reflect not just on you but on your two coworkers, so I think you should just show a couple pics of the scenery and be done with it. Obviously I don’t know your coworkers, but I feel like if I were the fellow road trippers and I were approached about keeping the trip super secret, I’d be a bit weirded out.

      1. nonymous*

        OP could totally make a joke album and have fun with it. A couple comments about bad photo skills, a blurry picture of something unidentifiable (with a giant finger covering the lens), generic pics lifted from google images from the route, and a final shot of all the trip-mates together (bonus points if it’s really obvious that the photo was taken at work).

        When I moved across country, the picture I posted to work slack was from the freeway on-ramp exiting our city looking toward work and with the moving truck obviously in the foreground, and I think I posted a picture of the freeway signage from when we crossed into my home state.

      2. paul*


        I get where the OP is coming from, and I suspect I’d feel the same way. Hell, my last vacation–most of those pictures wouldn’t be work appropriate.

        But this seems like a really weird place to burn good will and capital that you may need later.

    5. Smithy*

      I completely agree that if this is something that would require spending work capital on – that this is just not worth it. Particularly if one of the trip participants who works closely with the CEO would be forced to essentially spend more work capital – this could be a particularly hard ask on your friend to join you in this protest. And as others have said, the presentation doesn’t have to detail everything but just a lively told story about one PG funny incident or a fun place where you had a meal.

      I used to work for a nonprofit where I was basically the only staff who traveled. It was a tiny nonprofit with no budget, so my expenses were typically entirely assumed by another partner and rarely meant any kind of crazy per diem or expensing opportunity. However as the only one *allowed* to travel and going abroad – not bringing back chocolate for the entire office demanded a story of “we were locked in a convent for training all day and couldn’t leave” to explain the absence (true story btw). It wasn’t fair or reasonable to always bring back candy, but it also was just not a hill remotely worth dying on.

    6. LBK*

      I mean, the road trip in the letter sounds fairly innocuous, but the last trip I went on was a gay cruise. There are absolutely no photos of that trip I’d be comfortable sharing with my coworkers! And I’m sure the argument will be “just stage some more appropriate photos” but I’d be really annoyed at effectively having to do a work assignment while I’m on vacation, especially one that’s so demeaning since it’s basically a kindergarten show-and-tell. Vacation is your time away, you shouldn’t have to be thinking about work, period.

      1. Smithy*

        While I totally agree – I’m also not sure that this is the place where I’d want to expand workplace capital. Sure – there are types of vacations that are more adult/less professional – but coming up with 3-4 photos and a story to tell?

        If I was in charge of creating an office culture – this would not be a feature I’d include. But it’s also just not a feature I’d want to fight.

      2. Kelsi*

        Don’t do it on vacation–just spend five minutes grabbing some Google images photos of the places the cruise stopped when you get back. “I didn’t really have time to take pictures, I was so busy having fun! We spent a day Punta Cana, it was really gorgeous, see?”

        I realize this is hypothetical but there are ways to handle this without messing up your vacation OR giving coworkers reason to think you were up to something that could make office politics difficult for you.

        1. LBK*

          It still feels like a dumb, demeaning work assignment that serves no purpose but prying into your personal life. If I had the capital to push back on this I’d definitely do it, on behalf of people without as much capital to spend if not just for myself.

        2. LBK*

          Also, I just commented something similar above, but I don’t really think this would go over much better than if you just said you didn’t want to share. If the desire is to hear personal details/see personal photos of the trip, some images you clearly googled and vague anecdotes probably aren’t going to be enough, because a person who’s satisfied to hear “We went to the beach, it was nice” is not the kind of person who makes you do an assignment this stupid in the first place.

          1. OP3*

            You’re spot on. The CEO LOVES details and will most definitely prod us if we don’t give him any. The trip *was* innocuous and so showing our personal pictures isn’t a big deal, but for me it’s very much about the principle of the matter. While I get that it’s not worth pushing back on because I won’t seem like a team player, I wish he wasn’t forcing us to do this.

          2. Kelsi*

            Can’t speak for OP, but I’m literally speaking from experience–I mentioned upthread I’m a very private person, and I happen to have recently worked for a manager who was very touchy-feely and liked to have us share life stuff as part of “team bonding.”

            I can absolutely bullshit an answer that satisfies everyone and makes them FEEL like I gave them something–even with photos–without actually sharing anything. Should I have to? No. Is it a pretty minor thing in the grand scheme of things that isn’t worth spending capital to push back on? Yes.

          3. jo*

            I’m so with you, LBK. Even with coworkers I really like, I do not particularly want to talk to them about my vacation or my upcoming weekend plans, unless we’ve reached the point of being friends outside of work. But even then … you just had to be there! Vacation is a lot more fun to experience than to talk about. Discussing it afterwards is only enjoyable with people who were there with you.

            In OP’s shoes, I’d go the bland and boring route for now, and then sometime later (definitely before the next vacation) I’d mention to the CEO that the vacation recaps aren’t serving their intended purpose (i.e. a fun bonding activity) for me. And I think the line “vacations are fun to go on, but boring to talk about after” should be sufficient reason. You don’t have to make it about privacy, even if it is; that could seem like you have something to hide.

      3. VictorianCowgirl*

        “Shoot I’m just having so much trouble getting the pictures off the camera! When I figure it out I’ll bring them in”.

        I never figure it out.

    7. Oxford Comma*

      ^^^^all of this. I have worked with a few people in my life who are adamant that they never want to socialize to such a point that it comes off negatively (and I don’t mean going out to lunch or some event in non-work hours–I mean that they seem to regard any non-work question even one like the bland “how was your weekend?” as a gross intrusion into their private lives). Most people don’t think like that. And TBH, most of us don’t want a blow-by-blow of a co-worker’s weekend. We’re contented with a “it was busy, thanks. Yours?”

      There are some great suggestions here, but I particularly like the one that you pick one very generic anecdote and you’ll be done.

    8. OP3*

      OP3 here. I see your and Allison’s point. I didn’t say this in the letter because I figured it shouldn’t (in theory) matter, but I have a pretty intense public speaking phobia that makes even little things like this take on a much bigger magnitude in my mind. I’ll most likely have to take a beta blocker to get through this, because otherwise I will have panic-attack-like symptoms. In all likelihood my very outgoing coworker will take the reins and do the lion’s share of the talking, but my anxious mind is thinking worst-case scenario here.

      1. Bleeborp*

        I was going to suggest seeing if one of your fellow trip goers could speak for the group and hopefully keep you from having to say much. If you could be the one clicking through the pictures while someone else talks might even be better since it will make you look like an active participant!

  6. Thornus67*

    #1, what would happen if you take PTO during the day to go to the doctor then don’t make it up later that day and/or pay period? Would they dock your pay? The letter implies that it’s a salary position. If they dock pay for using “PTO” but then not working the hours missed later, that suggests possible FLSA violations to me.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      My understanding is you can dock PTO balances for exempt employees but if they do not have any PTO left it would be illegal to dock pay.

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        But it’s unlimited PTO, so surely docking the PTO balance wouldn’t really do anything?

      2. Kelsi*

        And even if the PTO wasn’t unlimited, it sounds like docking the PTO balance is what OP *wants* them to do. They are trying to use PTO and job is telling them to make it up instead.

    2. MLB*

      I’m assuming they have a handbook explaining all of the benefits. If they don’t, LW needs to get specifics from her manager. She may have assumed what “unlimited PTO” entails and been wrong. I’ve always been salaried and time off has always been explained in explicit detail in our employee handbook. Some managers may let an hour here and there slide because when needed I worked extra hours, but PTO has always been clearly defined.

    3. Amber T*

      It could also be that OP loses good faith with their manager, because how could anyone ever get in a full day’s worth of work in less than 8 hours? If your butt isn’t in the chair for at least 1/3 of a day, you’re a slacker, and your performance will suffer.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I really can’t tell here if you’re being sincere, or if you’re channelling the unreasonable boss. I hope the latter.

    4. LBK*

      I’m kinda on the company’s side for this one – I’ve always assumed unlimited PTO really meant unlimited full-day vacation time. If you’re allowed to use it in an unlimited fashion in small chunks without making it up, you’d basically never be required to work full time? To me this falls under standard flexible scheduling, which is not necessarily monitored/required to be balanced out so specifically but I do think the deal is generally that your manager won’t charge your PTO if you just need an hour or two off for an appointment but that you’ll be expected to at least work a little extra time, if not the full amount of the time you took off.

      1. Autumnheart*

        But if they’re caught up in their work, and their absence doesn’t have a negative impact on workload, what is served by making the employee park their butt in their chair for an additional hour? That’s textbook presenteeism.

        1. LBK*

          If it’s only an hour every so often then I wouldn’t begrudge someone that, but if there are regular appointments and/or you’re gone for a few hours, I think I’d question if you had enough work to do if you could do that without even needing to partially make it up.

      2. AMPG*

        But she says she already does stay late when needed, so I suspect this balances just fine over time. IMO one of the perks of being salaried is that you get an extra hour here or there when needed without having to track it, because it’s understood that you’ll be making it up in the long run.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I generally buck against any “butts-in-chairs” philosophy, but if you offer people unlimited PTO and don’t spell out how it works, then it’s really unfair to ask them to “make up” time spent on doctor’s appointments, etc. Unlimited PTO is unlimited PTO. Unless the company has written out its policy somewhere, it’s natural for OP to assume that it covers necessary appointments of the 1-2 hour length, etc., during the middle of the day. They can’t offer the policy and then make it functionally impossible to use. (Of course they can, but it would be better if they didn’t.)

      4. tangerineRose*

        So people can just take a full day off instead? Hmm, as long as I can take as much PTO as I want, that might be OK with me.

  7. LouiseM*

    OP#2, I’m also not thrilled with your brother here. Sadly, just because somebody loves us doesn’t mean they can’t also be using us. I too have some grifters in my family that I’ve needed to politely show the door. Don’t strain your own professional credibility to help out your brother (my answer would be different if it seemed like he was in a desperate situation).

    1. Emily Spinach*

      This could certainly be, but from the LW’s description your read sounds harsh. I don’t think asking a family member to forward your resume twice in two years (or three times in the years) necessarily or even commonly falls into the category of taking advantage or grifting. I do think the brother needs to be thoughtful and extra professional given the past two times the LW helped him, if she does try again on his behalf.

      1. Artemesia*

        It doesn’t matter. He has burned his bridges with her at this place. This can only damage her credibility to be out pushing him again. Twice was already iffy. HE can apply. He can even say that he talked to them earlier but the time wasn’t right, but he is now making a move to the area. Leave her out of it.

      2. nonymous*

        As a story from the other side, when my husband finished grad school, his uncle (who was in management in a fortune 500 company) volunteered in a family group email to review hubby’s resume. Uncle’s review/help consisted of some vague comment that hubby “was sure to find something”. Like, I totally get if the resume is not at the standard he wanted to be associated with at work (or if he just had a policy of “nepotism for my kids only”), but at least give feedback, right?

        Anyways, the point is that for some circles even a single forwarding of CV/Resume to HR by a family member is excessive.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        He may not be a grifter, but he’s asked OP to extend their goodwill and relationships twice, and then failed to move forward with it. I agree that OP should not extend her relationships again; he’s been unreliable and unpredictable, and if he wants the job, he’s going to need to put more effort into the process. At this point, other men’s crosses are not OP’s crosses to bear.

    2. Willis*

      I agree with Alison’s advice that the brother should contact HR directly, especially since he spoke with them before, but it doesn’t sound from the letter like he’s initiated all of these attempts. The first time the OP asked if she could pass along his resume, and it’s not clear whether the OP is asking about passing it along a third time at his request or her own idea to help him find a job in their mutual city.

    3. KAZ2Y5*

      I don’t think that’s right. The first time, OP#2 says they offered to show the brother’s resume to their HR and the brother agreed. The second time the brother did ask for help. And this third time, it reads like OP#2 is debating about whether to approach HR or not. The OP never mentions the brother asking for help. The brother may have asked a lot, but from the letter I only see one time he asked.

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        @Willis, great minds think alike! I’m sure we were both replying at almost the same time. @LouiseM, don’t mean to pick on you.

    4. PB*

      “Grifter” seems a bit harsh, in this context. The brother is employed. Two years ago, he turned down one offer, and a year ago, contact with the company fizzled. I do agree that the brother should initiate contact at this point, and that OP continuing to push could hurt their credibility, but “politely showing him the door” feels like an overstatement.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, it’s possible that he’s secretly manipulative and overdependent, but the worst I can say from the information here is that he’s a bit indecisive, in a way that wouldn’t even be particularly noteworthy except that he’s using up his reference goodwill in the process.

        1. Seriously?*

          Yes. He does not sound like he is trying to use the OP. He sounds somewhat disorganized and flakey.

    5. HarperC*

      I am also not thrilled with the brother. I think it’s probably just a lack of knowing how these things work in general and maybe being a little flippant about it all. Not the end of the world, but I strongly suggest telling him to handle things himself this time.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes his “oh well, they must not be interested” on the second go round seems a bit unmotivated.

    6. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m not sure I’d go as far as to call him a grifter. However, I don’t think it looks good for the OP to keep trying. For the second time, I think it looks bad that he never followed up after a given point. If OP2 let him know what happened according to HR, that’s useful information for OP2.

    7. OP2*

      Hi! A few clarifying statements I realized I should probably have put in the letter:

      1. The first time, brother wasn’t actively looking mostly because he was convinced he didn’t have enough experience to be a serious candidate anywhere. In hindsight, I probably should’ve just left it at that, but I wanted to show him he didn’t have to work 75 hours a week for the same base salary if he didn’t want to (yes, that’s a typical week at his current job), so I might’ve nudged him to apply when he wasn’t sure he was ready to leave his current situation. That’s on me.
      2. I get how you could read the letter this way, but brother is not a grifter. I’ve been trying to help him out because his current job really is terrible, and I don’t like seeing him working in such an awful situation.
      3. Brother is cognizant that applying a third time pushes my HR department’s patience, which is why he’s applying to other places first and not bothering to apply here unless nowhere else pans out. He has not asked me to be his reference this time. I was writing to see if I should bother putting his resume on HR’s desk a third time, or after he applies, if I should bother talking him up to HR again. The answer to these questions seems to be “No,” and “Only if they approach me about him.”

      1. JSPA*

        Frankly, he should be writing the letter to AAM, asking whether / how to mend bridges for the previous “missed contacts.”

        Those misfires add up to, “could be indecisive, could be flakey, could lack initiative, could lack responsibility, could lack scheduling and follow up ability, could lack sense of workplace norms.” Only he, not you, can remedy this impression. Let him take initiative, take responsibility and demonstrate his abilities, and put the previous circumstances in context, if need be.

        If it’s within your work culture norms (and only if!) I suppose he could pick you up at work or come to a company picnic, by way of meeting people there–again, with an eye towards him having a chance to make his own impression and connections.

        Keep in mind that it’s also at least remotely possible that there was no missed connection; brother or your company could be doing a CYA / privacy duck.

      2. Millennial Lawyer*

        Your brother’s current actions don’t really make sense. He should still apply but explain that the other two occasions ended up not being right time for him in terms of making a huge move, but now he plans on moving anyway and therefore is really committed and interested in the position.

  8. Cafe au Lait*

    OP #4, I’m sorry that you’re dealing with your ex’s death. I recently dealt with an unexpected death in my family. When I wrote to work about it, I was upfront about the death (and gave no details) and clearly stated that I wasn’t up to talking about it then. Not even “hang in there’s” or “I’m sorry for your loss.”

    That could be a viable option if you wanted to go that route. Email your peers before coming back, using the script Alison outlined. Then say that you’re not up to discussing it as you’re looking forward to the structure work provides. Thank everyone for their thoughts and condolences, and close the emailing by saying how much you apprciate working with such a caring employer and colleagues.

    You’ll be on the recieving end of several “I’m thinking about you” smiles that first day or two, but things will slip back to normal within a week.

  9. PizzaSquared*

    For #1, I feel like this is the kind of garbage that gives “unlimited PTO” a bad name. My company too has unlimited PTO, but they really mean it. It’s just like when we had regular vacation time, except you don’t have to worry about accruing it. Take time when you want/need to, and as long as your work is getting done, no one will give it a second thought.

    That said, even prior to unlimited PTO, I have never worked at a salaried job where they required me to stay late to make up time for a doctor’s appointment. Again, get your work done, and no one should care. This seems like just a crappy situation independent of how they describe their PTO.

    1. Zathras*

      Yeah, I have unlimited PTO now and it’s like yours – you can manage your own time for short absences. It’s just assumed that things generally even out since most everyone sometimes stays late to finish something, and as long as your work gets done nobody is counting the exact number of hours your butt is in your seat.

      At my old job which had normal vacation/sick time accruals, it was still a similar attitude. It was technically possible to draw PTO by the hour and maybe some departments did, but my boss told me “I have to click through about 37 screens to approve sick time, only bother me with it if it’s a half day or longer.”

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I haven’t had to make up doctor’s appointments either when salaried – everyone stays late or works through lunch at some point, so it all tends to come out in the wash. If I know it’s going to take a long time I’ll take a day or half day, but if it’s a routine dental cleaning, eye exam, that kind of thing, I schedule it as close to the beginning or end of the day as I can and come in late or leave early.

      If I have to choose between staying late to make up a doctor’s appointment and using a full PTO day that I do NOT have to make up, guess which one I’m going to do?

      1. LSP*

        Especially if that PTO is unlimited! If the company is going to be so unreasonable about an hour or two for a medical appointment for salaried employees, then yeah, I’d take the whole day off for a teeth-cleaning and probably get a pedicure just ’cause. :P

    3. HarperC*

      Along these lines, since this does seem like a pretty uncommon interpretation of unlimited PTO (although not unheard of), could it be that OP1’s boss just interprets it this way and that’s not really the intention company-wide? Might be worth investigating, OP1.

      1. Seriously?*

        That is what I was wondering. What is being described is not “unlimited PTO” it is a flexible schedule.

    4. Bea*

      Yes. Also the whole point of salaried positions is that you’re not tracking time. So having someone “make up” the time is missing the mark.

      1. LSP*

        To be fair, there are some salaried jobs that still require time-tracking, such as for the government or government contractors. Of course, those jobs do not come with anything that could in anyway be described as “unlimited PTO” so I’m going to assume OP is not in one of those.

    5. krysb*

      Same. I’m totally spoiled to my unlimited PTO. I honestly don’t know if I’d ever be able to go to another job because I’ve gotten so used to so much freedom.

      1. Heat's Kitchen*

        I am the exact same way. I have a two year old at home and another on the way, and not being able to work remotely occasionally or take off the morning to take my kid to a well check would be a deal breaker for me. I also really appreciate just being treated like an adult. I guarantee my work will get done and no one says anything otherwise.

        I will say, I’m the type of person who does check my email even on my “PTO” days, so it’s rare I’m ever truly disconnected. This is one thing that a lot of my coworkers don’t like about the unlimited policy, but I think it leads to a much more healthy and trusting workforce.

        Of course, as with any policy, you’ll have a problem employee here or there. But I haven’t heard of anyone that didn’t work it out with their manager.

  10. littleandsmall*

    LW #1, I’ve worked at several companies that offer unlimited PTO and that’s not how it works, I’m very confused and frustrated for you!

    Although there have been a handful of situations where I needed to leave the office to run an errand or doctor’s appointment and if we were particularly swamped or on a time crunch, either I volunteered or my manager asked if I could make up the time I missed. But those were rare exceptions, not expectation.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I wonder if OP#1’s company is only interpreting it as unlimited full days off? Like, surely she wouldn’t have to work extra to make up a 5-day vacation or something? That’s a silly system, but if so, maybe the next time I had an appointment I’d be inclined to just take the whole day rather than return and make up time!

      1. SS Express*

        That’s exactly what I’d suggest.

        OP: Is it okay if I start at 10 on Wednesday? I need to go to the dentist.
        Boss: Sure, but you’ll need to finish late to make it up.
        OP: In that case I’ll be taking one of my unlimited PTO days, see you Thursday.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is the natural consequences approach. Though I do wonder if it’s the simpler “We have unlimited PTO, by which we mean no PTO. Because we love it here so much! Because we are so dedicated! So yeah, I took two days off for my brother’s wedding since the whole family leaned on me, but I worked the weekend to make up the time before I left.”

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, that was my thought. If I have to make up an hour or two but I don’t have to make up a day? I’m going to take a day anytime I need an hour.

      2. Emily K*

        MTE. If I have to make up an hour but I can take 8 hours off scot-free, guess what I’m doing for my 10 am dentist appointment!

  11. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – When you allow someone else to foot the bill – even partially – you lose some rights to privacy.
    I don’t think they want much. Probably less than 20 photos with the highlights would do.
    In the future you can pay for it yourself or be prepared to show photos.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a huge number of photos to share with coworkers!

      I really don’t think they need to show any photos at all if they don’t want to. They can just say they didn’t take photos on the trip if they don’t care to share them. They do need to say a few vague sentences about the trip if they don’t want to seem weirdly chilly, but there’s really no obligation beyond that.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I guess I’m used to putting together slide shows. The iPhone also has a feature that makes slide shows (complete with music) so its easy to do.

        But I really want to emphasize that if you want full control then you need to pay for it yourself.

        1. Fake Eleanor*

          If a presentation (about a vacation!) is a condition of them paying for a rental car (when they would have been paying for a return plane ticket anyway), the company needs to state that up front, not after the fact.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Also, the company didn’t spend any more than they would have for the flight, and I don’t think the CEO would be asking for pictures then.

          1. Kittyfish 76*

            In your photos, go under memories. Choose a memory and it will automatically create a slideshow for you. I believe you can customize from there.

          2. Engineer Girl*

            I create a separate album and name it appropriately.
            Go into the album and tap on the right arrow at the top of the page.
            IPhone will start creating a movie with your photos and videos.
            Stop the movie once it starts playing. Then choose the theme and length.
            The photos whip by to music.
            If you are happy with the slide show you can click on the export motif at the bottom left. This will save your slide show as a video. In your photo album.
            BTW, the short version is 30 seconds long. The long one is 4 minutes.

        2. Emily K*

          I think there are some things that you can reasonably expect to capitulate to when someone else is paying, but not *everything* is reasonable just because someone else paid. This request, to me, seems unreasonable. My company routinely pays for my travel without asking me to share photos of myself on the trip, unless there is a bona fide business reason they needed me to share photo, in which case I was told *before* my trip to make sure I took photos with such-and-such VIP and get a photo of staffers working our booth.

          My company also pays my hotel room, which means they have the right to dictate things like how much I can spend on a hotel, whether I can expense room service, whether I can pay for 2 extra nights to come a day before and leave a day after the event or if I have to take early morning and late night same-day flights, and they can require me to behave professionally and not get rowdy while staying in the hotel. Those are bona fide business reasons.

          This request feels to me like the equivalent of asking me to share selfies of myself on the hotel balcony and rooftop because the company paid for the room.

      2. Sami*

        Whoa! Yeah, 20 is way too many. When people post vacation photos on Facebook, I’ll look through maybe 10 and then I’m done. Any more than that is usually quite repetitive.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah. 20 is crazy high.
          I’d bet that most people mentally check out after about 5 photos unless either (a) you’re seriously into photography so your photos actually capture the stunning views or (b) you went somewhere absolutely incredible.

          1. OP3*

            I completely agree with you on all points — however when our CEO and a small handful of others have presented at these meetings on their vacations or weddings or whatnot, the number of photos they shared was between 10 and 15. Did I find the first few interesting? Yes. Did I completely check out after that? Yes, yes I did.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          I don’t even usually take that many pictures, unless people are really interested in birds.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Actually, yes! Especially if they’re on interesting cobble-stone streets or in front of old buildings or being held by adorable children who are obviously not of my culture. But even without all these elements, yes, please!

        3. Elizabeth West*

          This. Nobody wants to look at 20 photos. I have ALL my UK pics on my phone and after sharing about 6 (relevant to whatever we’re talking about), I stop because people’s interest starts to flag.

      3. Kikishua*

        On the other hand…. brilliant way to bore them to death and ensure they never ask again!

        1. Tardigrade*

          This is a picture of the steering wheel in the rental car. This one is when I accidentally took a closeup of Coworker’s hair. This is when we tried to take a picture of a neat tree while driving by but it came out all blurry. This one is really good, the largest peach pie served by any Iowan highway diner.

          1. Beancounter Eric*

            I’m the geek who would give them a detailed presentation on the rental car.

            Photos of:
            1. Driver side view of the car
            2. Passenger side view.
            20. Engine compartment focusing on #3 cylinder.
            21. Engine compartment focusing on ignition coil module.
            75. View from inside the trunk, lid closed, aiming at back bumper.
            76. View from inside the trunk, lid closed, aiming forward.

            And deliver any dialog in the driest, monotone voice possible.

      4. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah. The truth of it is, most people don’t really want to see your photos (photos of your kids, vacation photos, nudes, the salad you ordered in a cafe, you with the puppy-face filter, nudes with your bits covered by the puppy face filter…) they’re just being polite. Just be like “it was really fun but I’m not much of a photographer,” and everyone will politely go “aw, but we really wanted to see a selfie of you with half of a fuzzy landmark in the background – darn,” but secretly be relieved.

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          “Nudes with your bits covered by the puppy face filter” Well there’s a mental image I cannot unsee.

          1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

            It was mentioned in a previous letter here, and I think all of us are scarred for life.

      5. Cambridge Comma*

        I was thinking that perhaps they don’t need to be the OP’s actual photos — she could find some generic online photos of the sights they passed by and say a few words about each one.

      6. Snark*

        My approach would be to share a few superficial details – “Saw the Bland Canyon, it was beautiful! And ate a lot of corn nuts and gummy bears, haha.” And I personally think not sharing photos is a weird hill to die on, but whatever.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          I think so, too. They just want a couple of anecdotes and maybe a photo or two. The OP can make the anecdotes a little funny, a little boring or any combination thereof. But really all they want is a *very* slightly expanded answer to the question, “How was your vacation?” They just want a nice little chat.

        2. Magee*

          I also think it would be weird for OP#3 to push back on this, but it’s also really weird for the boss(es) to have made such a big deal of there being no pictures (saying “nice try” and “I don’t think so”?) and wanting the co-workers to say something during a work meeting. It would be one thing to ask for pictures or details of the trip when you see the OP in the hall, but it’s making the trip a much bigger deal to carve time out of a work meeting for it.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            It’s hard to say, of course, but it sounds to me as though he’s just joking. If he’s not, yep, that’s weird, but it could very easily be a perfectly ordinary joke.

            1. OP3*

              He wasn’t joking. We are going to have to make a presentation on our trip, even if it’s just 5 minutes. (If it’s less than that, he will probably ask for more detail!) I’m not going to push back on it, but it’s something I’m really going to be dreading since I have a public speaking phobia. For the few times I’ve had to present at these meetings, it was work related so I understood that it was necessary, but this is not integral to my job or anyone else’s, and therefore I sort of hate that I have to do this.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                Oh, OP, I am so sorry this is stressful for you, but honestly, he’s still not totally serious. I think you and I are using different definitions of “serious.” Yes, he does want you to talk about your trip, but not because it is for him a Serious Issue. To him, it is a lighthearted, minor thing. If each person who went on the road trip tells one anecdote, that’s five minutes right there.

                It sounds serious to you – and heck, it *is* serious to you – because you dread public speaking (I used to as well, though I eventually got over it). But it is really and truly not intended that way, I am convinced. So just give them an anecdote or two, and you’re done. If you can come up with a couple of photos, that’s a bonus, but it’s not mandatory. Heck, none of this is mandatory.

                1. Kathleen_D*

                  It would be weird if he seriously expects it, yes. But as a form of mild teasing – if that’s what it is, which is impossible to tell from the outside – it sounds totally normal.

                  Almost every vacation I take involves at least a short visit to one or more sites of archaeological importance – ruins, burial mounds, ceremonial mounds, etc. I’m kind of a nut on the subject. All of my various bosses and some coworkers, too, have teased me about this, though in my case, the joke is that nobody wants to see any photos because who cares about a burial mound? This sounds like exactly the same sort of thing to me.

            1. bonkerballs*

              Agreed. And it sounds like OP is saying this has become a little bit of the culture of the organization, to share little bits of vacation and personal things. No one wants to sit through a half hour slide show of photos of the same rock formation from 30 different angles, but a picture or two of something really cool you saw or a funny anecdote can be enjoyable.

      7. Guacamole Bob*

        20 is actually kind of a lot. I went on a long weekend trip with my wife a few weeks ago, and I just looked back in my phone and discovered I took 2 photos the whole trip. Two. And that was only because a friend had recommended something we ended up doing and so I wanted to text her about it. It just wasn’t that kind of trip – it was rainy a bunch of the weekend and we were having a quiet, relaxing weekend together while the grandparents watched the kids.

        If I were OP I’d kind of resent the expectation that I’d spend mental energy on remembering to take photos during my vacations when I wouldn’t otherwise so I’d have something to show my coworkers. But if that’s the office expectation I’d suck it up, probably, and be brief and boring.

      8. SophieK*


        What you or I or anybody else thinks has nothing to do with anything. The boss is asking for a presentation, likely as a lesson about asking for special favors.

        That’s ALL that matters here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, I really don’t see that at all! This wasn’t a special favor; they actually probably cost the company less money to get home from the business trip than if they flew — but either way, I really doubt this is an attempt to teach anyone a lesson.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I think this is one of those “mandatory fun” things that frequently aren’t fun.

        2. Brittasaurus Rex*

          Then the boss is being weird about it. It cost less to rent them a car than to pay for airfare, so I see no special favors here. If he wants a presentation, he should have requested it before the trip.

    2. Not Australian*

      Nobody gets to impose conditions after the fact; if the OP had been told “Yes, but we’ll expect to hear all about it when you get back” they would have known whether to proceed with that proviso or not. And really, if they’d taken the flight instead, who would have wanted to know about that? “Did you sit next to anybody interesting? Did you eat the peanuts?” It’s a level of prurience not really justified by the employer paying for the car.

      1. RaccoonLady*

        Especially since the company just paid for the car and not the rest of the vacation!!!
        If I were LW I would be tempted to just show pictures of the rental car, since that’s what the company paid for.

        1. Snark*

          It wasn’t a vacation. It was a work trip. They just got to enjoy a road trip on the way back.

          1. Emily K*


            My company, like a lot of others, will let you tack a personal vacation onto the end of a work trip in various ways – paying for a few extra hotel nights yourself and flying back later, or even flying from A -> B for work and then B -> C for vacation. As long as B -> C is less than or equal to the airfare of B -> A, you don’t even need to ask special permission to have B -> C covered by the company. (The employee pays the full fare home from C -> A, even if B -> C was cheaper than B -> A and generated some savings for the company.)

            I can’t imagine any of us being required to put together a presentation on our vacations just because the company paid for part of it. The company was going to be paying the same amount or more if the employee had come straight home instead of extending their trip, so they’re not doing us any favors except the favor of being reasonable and interested in employee satisfaction.

            1. tangerineRose*

              I’ve added an extra vacation day after a work trip any number of times. No one bugged me about showing all of the details.

      2. TL -*

        I think it’s a burning a lot of capital not to share 2-3 photos that show what people expect: “We saw Mt. Rushmore – do you know it was built using an Interesting Fact? The next day we passed through Wyoming, which you can see was absolutely gorgeous; I really want to spend more time there. Finally, here we are eating breakfast at a diner on our last day – worst pancakes ever but amazing eggs. So much fun!”

        I mean, maybe the OP did a road trip centered around taking nekkid mud baths and cow tipping so really doesn’t have any appropriate pictures, but, at least for me, the ability to make a presentation that basically shared nothing wouldn’t be worth the argument.

        1. Coldfeet*

          Agreed! Make a bland three photo “highlight reel” … even if those aren’t the true highlights. Avoiding the subject altogether, when other employees share about their vacations, will come off as odd at the very least.

          1. OP3*

            Yes, but those few people presented about their vacations willingly (at least I think it was willingly?). We were told by the CEO that he’s expecting us to give a presentation, and that means it’s mandatory and not an option to decline. It’s not like everyone who goes on vacation gives a presentation about it. It’s only been a handful of people who went on long international trips, and that’s not what this was.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I basically only take bland or weird pictures, so this would be no problem for me. “Look at all the flowers in this field! Aren’t they beautiful? And haha, the grammar on that restaurant’s menu was terrible, but the food was good.”

        3. Parenthetically*

          Yep, it’s just really easy to give a 30-second content-free summary. “Scenery, factoids, isn’t America the Beautiful actually beautiful? Now on to the next item on the agenda.” Definitely not worth going against the grain.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        It’s a nice thought but the real world operates differently. If people fund something they expect to have a stake in it. That’s especially true if it wasn’t a gift.

        Practically, if you want 100% freedom then you 100% need to foot the bill.

        1. SS Express*

          Which real world are you talking about? In the real world where I live, I’ve frequently extended business trips to incorporate personal travel and never once been asked, much less expected, to share photos or stories. In my real world this is quite a common thing to do (including sometimes switching the flight for a car rental, like OP did) and an employer who pressured someone to give a presentation on their trip would be considered very strange.

          1. The Original K.*

            Yeah, at my old company it was very common to extend trips an extra day, weekend, even a week (the team had a conference at a location out of the country and one team member’s husband joined her there for a week after we all left) and nobody expected you to do anything but pay for the part of the trip that was on your time. I have a friend in Boston and working at that company took me there with some regularity, so I would regularly tack on a weekend before or after to see her. “How was it?” “Great, thanks!” That was it.

            1. OP3*

              That’s exactly what it’s like here — people tack on personal trips after this annual event all the time. I think that this has become mandatory for us because the CEO works so closely with my friend and generally just likes hearing stories and telling them.

          2. Penny Lane*

            I agree it’s odd to pressure someone to give a presentation on a trip like this (I too have extended business trips into personal many a time), but it’s equally odd to push back on it to the extent that the OP desires to. This falls under throw-em-a-bone and move on.

          3. AMPG*

            I think the fact that the trip was taken with coworkers is a big part of the expectation, here. I think if the OP had driven alone it would be much easier to push back.

            Which brings me to my own suggestion for how to handle this – let your coworkers do it. Unless they’re just as opposed to this presentation as you are, just let them take the lead.

        2. Caro in the UK*

          That’s your opinion, which you’re stating as fact. It’s not true that everybody feels that way, far from it.

          And in fact, they company didn’t really fund the trip. They actually save money on a business expense, by paying less for the rental car than they would have on flights if OP and her friends had flown straight home.

          Whether OP wants to push back on this or not depends on how much work capital she wants to use. But let’s be clear, the company and CEO are owed nothing.

          1. Snark*

            It was a work trip with a coworker. Maybe they’re not owed in the formally contractual sense of the word, but if their work culture includes sharing some details of work trips when you get back, it’s going to come off unfeasibly weirdly to push back.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              I think it’s kind of weird and I went on plenty of work trips where I took some time for fun.

              Some generic “We had a great time and saw this thing” would work, though.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yeah, absolutely. Folks here always end up going round and round about this when it comes up. It’s going to be very odd indeed in a lot of offices to say, “I don’t feel comfortable sharing a single benign anecdote about my vacation.” It would be a bit like refusing to answer “How ya doing?” on principle because you don’t want to share details of your life with coworkers. Like, we have bland, conventional stock phrases exactly for these sorts of situations.

            3. Colette*

              Agreed – but I don’t think that would change if the OP and the co-worker had paid for the rental car instead of expensing it.

              1. Seriously?*

                I agree. The expectation that they share pictures and expensing the car do not seem to be related. The OP even said that it is normal for the boss to expect these types of presentations “The practice of showing vacation or wedding pictures during a staffing meeting is something that has become more common in recent years, coinciding with the CEO trying to make the office more fun”. The only relevance the fact that the company paid for the car has is that it is why they know about the vacation at all.

                1. Snark*

                  It was a work trip and involved a mutual coworker. That makes it plenty relevant, even if only on the social level; it’s not like it’s so irrelevant to work that the request is preposterous.

                2. Emily K*

                  It’s not preposterous, but to me it’s a minor boundary violation to ask/press more than once to talk about my personal life outside of work. You can ask me once, I say no thanks, that should be the end of it. Harping on it, even if it’s good-natured and teasingly, well, the first analogy that comes to mind “nice guys” who “just want to talk” to me when I’m on the train trying to listen to music and read. I don’t owe anyone my personal life, and a polite “no thanks” should be respected when given.

                  I would probably capitulate to avoid rocking the boat if I were in LW’s situation (hi, I’m pathologically non-confrontational), doing what others suggest here and just showing some generic “I bought this hand-woven scarf at an Indian taco stand in Nevada” photos…but having to be pressed into doing that after politely declining once would definitely negatively color my perception of my employer’s ability to respect the boundaries between personal life and professional life. Not a big enough thing that I’d quit over it, but enough to lower my commitment to the company by a few points and make it easier for me to be wooed by another company that will let me have a private personal life.

                  Just because some of my coworkers also exist in my personal life as friends doesn’t mean everything I do with those friends is now the company’s business. Then again, this kind of thing is why I’m friendly with everyone at work but avoid making friends with coworkers. I prefer a bright white line between my personal and professional lives.

            4. Observer*

              It’s true that the OP’s resistance comes off as sort of strange, and it could cost a lot of capital to push back. But it is NOT true that the employer has some sort of right to a presentation because they paid for the car rental.

            5. OP3*

              The trips that have been presented on during staff meetings have all been personal trips. The people who presented were (I assume) doing so of their own accord. I think in the past couple years only 5 or 6 people have given these presentations, out of a staff of 75 or so. It’s not the norm, which is one of the reasons why I’m perturbed by this. (The other, that I mention above in another couple comments, is that I have a public speaking phobia and will have significant anxiety before having to get up in front of everybody.)

        3. WeevilWobble*

          In the real world conditions are agreed upon in advance or else not valid.

          1. Snark*

            Well, it was established office culture to share some photos of work trips when you get back, so.

          2. Yorick*

            Not really, there are often unspoken conditions that you didn’t agree to but you still have to deal with (like here).

            They don’t need to share anything personal, just a bland photo or two and a few sentences about how nice the trip was

        4. Nanani*

          No, it really doesn’t. You might have some very toxic strains in your life. Capitalism doesn’t run EVERYTHING in the world.

        5. Observer*

          That’s actually not true. Especially since it wasn’t a gift or special favor – it was just a different form of the standard transportation reimbursement. The only thing the company gets to ask for is proof proof how much they paid.

        6. Kate*

          I’ve extended business trips for a vacation on multiple occasion, and the extent of discussion about it after has been, “How was your trip?” “It was good.” “Great, now about that work thing.” Since the OP says it’s normal in her office for people to show vacation or wedding photos at staff meetings (which personally I think is weird), then it would be weird for her to not want to give an even 5-minute, “Vacation was fun. We saw the largest ball of twine” type brief, but this is definitely not a “real world” truth.

        7. Kathleen_A*

          I truly think that some commenters (and the OP) are taking this faaaaaar too seriously. Nobody owes anybody anything. Nobody has to share the deepest secrets of their heart. Nobody wants a 15-minute PowerPoint on the road trip.

          They just want a slightly expanded answer to the question “How was your vacation?” They just want a little casual chat about an extremely conventional and common topic of office conversation. A couple of anecdotes – funny, boring or whatever suits the OP’s taste – and maybe a photo or two, though that is purely optional, and…that’s it. Done.

        8. LDP*

          The OP also said that people are sharing wedding photos and other vacation photos in these types of meetings, and I’m assuming that the company isn’t paying for employees weddings or theme park trips with the kids. It seems like it’s just part of the culture there, regardless of who ended up with the bill for the activity.

      4. Oxford Coma*

        Imagining the LW photobombing the flight attendant’s safety demonstration. “Sorry, I need to do a slideshow for work! Hold the mask there, and…smile!”

      5. tangerineRose*

        “we’ll expect to hear all about it when you get back” usually doesn’t literally mean that. It usually means the speaker wants a few details or wants some small talk about it afterwards. It’s like “Let’s have lunch sometime.”

    3. Vauxhall Prefect*

      I don’t think work really footed the bill here though. The OP and her colleagues travelled for work and then on the return trip got work to pay for the hire car rather than flights home. That’s kind of the company to be that flexible, but it doesn’t represent any more cost outlay for the company than what they’d have to spend anyway on getting their employees home. It’s pretty common for people stay a couple of days extra at their own expense on business trips where the company still pays for the flight back home, this doesn’t seem to be any different.

      And honestly, in a workplace as described there’s likely to be an expectation to hear a bit about a trip whether the company had any involvement in funding it or not. I agree with Alison that this probably much of a hill to die on to make it worth pushing back, but I’d think in most workplaces OP could get away with a pretty vague and brief holiday summary.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      But this wasn’t like the company footed the bill for the hotel for a few nights as a bonus–it wasn’t a perk above and beyond. They covered transport to and from the meeting. Probably they were flexible on travel dates, for example, if some people wanted to leave by air Thursday when the conference was done, and some by air Sunday after they had explored the city.

      I agree that OP probably has to come up with a few photos and sentences as a gesture to office peace, but the same would be true if the CEO learned three of them had spent a long weekend hiking a nearby trail, and thought that should be shared for morale.

    5. WeevilWobble*

      They paid for everything except the car and that was LESS than their airfare back. They saved the company money. They didn’t do so with any express obligations.

      Talking about it to not make it a Thing is fine. The photos? Absolutely not.

        1. Mom MD*

          No line. It’s blowing it way out of proportion to get so riled up over sharing three generic photos and saying a sentence or two about the side vacay. Do it and move on with life.

        2. McWhadden*

          Not everyone feels comfortable sharing photos of themselves off of work hours. And that’s their business.

          Why is it OK to force people to share what they aren’t comfortable with?

          1. Yorick*

            They don’t have to be photos of OP. They can be photos that OP took of the scenery.

            Even if they WERE photos of OP, there’s really no reason not to share them. Your coworkers have seen you before, so what’s the big deal in showing them a photo of you?

            Maybe OP and the coworkers didn’t take photos, if that’s the case they can just say that but give some vague info about the trip to make their coworkers happy.

            1. McWhadden*

              It’s a big deal to the OP. You really don’t get to invalidate that because it’s not to you.

              And we don’t know that she even has photos of the scenery.

              1. Snark*

                It’s a big deal by choice, and for reasons that are opaque to most, and it’s going to make them seem pretty weirdly aggressive and defensive, so valid or not I think it’s worthwhile for them to interrogate why they’re making a small deal a big one.

                1. Someone else*

                  Sometimes I feel like with this sort of thing, specifically at work, basically whoever says “come on, why are you making such a big deal out of this?” first wins. It some odd sort of social engineering I don’t quite understand. I probably wouldn’t have ended up in OP’s shoes because there probably literally would be no photos. So if I were doing the obligatory 3-sentence “presentation” on the trip it’d be super boring and not actually sharing, which I get is what most people are advocating for, but I wonder if the people saying “gee what an odd thing to have me do at work” were the first response, and as casual and lighthearted as the boss’ request if it might be possible to turn the tables. It’s like a tug of war of “just do it, it’s a silly little thing” vs “if it’s so silly and little, why does it matter if I don’t?”

              2. Yorick*

                If there are no appropriate photos to share, then this is no big deal. But a photo with coworkers is something that almost anyone would be ok sharing with other coworkers, and if OP is not I think they should really get to the bottom of why they’re finding that uncomfortable before making it a hill to die on.

          2. Snark*

            You’re amping this up more than is really called for. Don’t over-dramatize this into some fundamental clash of personalities and personal boundaries; the OP is already doing that quite enough. It’s no big deal, and making it a big deal is fairly ridiculous.

            1. Delphine*

              It’s clearly somewhat of a big deal to the OP and suggesting that the OP is being dramatic or oversensitive is hardly useful.

                1. Caro in the UK*

                  The different perspectives on this are so interesting! If I were an observer in this situation (OP’s coworker for example) I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if she refused. I would think it was really odd that the CEO was insisting.

                2. tangerineRose*

                  The OP explained in the comments about having a phobia of public speaking.

              1. slick ric flair*

                This is the comment section of an advice blog – my comment for advice is that the OP is being overly cautious and can share a few generic pics and generic sentences and shielding away from sharing anything about a trip with co-workers will come off strange. The vast majority of people would be fine with that.

                1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

                  OP3, I guess I am an outlier on this one, because I wouldn’t think twice about politely declining (refusing) to do a slide show presentation about my personal life, and frankly, I wouldn’t care about repercussions. If they persist and demand a slide show about your personal life, well, you can still say no, and you can continue to say no. Unlike other folks, I have more of a bright line when it comes to such things. On occasion, I experience something similar at work, and I do find that a polite, firm and direct refusal usually works, but then, bullying tactics don’t work on me. (I do consider it bullying and inappropriate when someone at a higher level insists that or keeps pestering you to do something that is not work and intrudes on your privacy.) It does seem that more and more, employers feel that they can exert more pressure on employees to promote the organization through employee personal photos and social media. Just say no.

          3. Lynn Whitehat*

            Find some stock photos of Mt. Rushmore or whatever if you don’t have any photos of your own you want to share.

          4. Elsajeni*

            I think it’s absolutely fine to say “Oh, I didn’t take any photos!” or something like that, whether it’s true or not, if there are really no photos you’re willing to share. But I think saying “I don’t want to show you my photos,” or “I don’t want to talk about my vacation,” is going to come across as EITHER weirdly unfriendly OR suggesting that something went terribly wrong and you’re upset about it. Which, I mean, of course the OP can do that, if she doesn’t mind giving those possible impressions. But if she just wants to do the minimum amount of talking about her vacation, and also not spend a bunch of time talking about why she doesn’t want to talk about her vacation, the most practical way through this is just to say, “We had fun! We spent Saturday in East Llamaville, then drove to New Alpackington and spent Sunday night there, then drove home! I didn’t take any pictures but maybe Lorraine did!” and then be done with it.

    6. Observer*

      20 Photos?! That’s not “not much”, that’s HUGE. And if that is REALLY what they are expecting, then it’s a huge over-reach and expectation of a level of detail that’s ridiculous.

      That’s not “some loss of privacy”, it’s an expectation of a level of detail that’s way over the top.

      To be honest, my first thought was that the OP is over-reacting. But if this is what they are thinking is expected, I think their reaction makes 100%. And, no partially paying for something doesn’t automatically grant you the right to all the details.

    7. Artemesia*

      I wouldn’t share 20 photos with my friends, at least in a captive space. No way I am dominating a department meeting with a travelogue slide show. One photo of them at some restaurant along the way or one photo of landmark along the way — 2 or 3 at the most — but one works fine. And one anecdote.

    8. CJ Record*

      Wow. Last vacation I went on, between dad and myself, we took less than five pictures combined.

    9. LSP*

      Not only would I not want to share photos of my vacations with co-workers, I wouldn’t want to look at pictures from my co-workers’ vacations. I’m just not interested, and it seems weird this has become a THING at this company.

      1. Emily K*

        Yeah, it’s actually a comedy trope for some goofy old grand/dad to pull out his Kodak Carousel and bore everyone with his crappy grand canyon photos (now with fewer thumbs!).

        In my company the employee intranet blog editor might reach out to you after a trip to see if you you wanted to share anything in an upcoming blog post. If you want to, the editor asks you some questions and will ask for 2 or 3 photos and she composes the post for you. It’s also perfectly acceptable to say “thanks but no thanks” if you’d rather not, and nobody is forced to read the employee intranet blog.

    10. teclatrans*

      Lol, I see where everybody is coming from and agree that there is a cultural norm around others’ photos being boring and OP could totally show 3-5, but, I would *totally love* to look at 20+ photos of a friend’s vacation/new house/baby/cat.

  12. Kaleid*

    OP#3- I’m with Louise M on this one. Pick a photo, tell a funny story, less than 5 mins, all over. Most people, no matter how caring, don’t really want to know about your break anymore than you want to tell them.

    1. MCL*

      Yeah, I like my colleagues, but I barely want to hear about other people’s vacation in casual conversation, and I totally don’t want to listen to them give a slide show about their vacation/wedding/birthday/whatever at a work meeting.

      1. eplawyer*

        That caught me too. The boss started this to make the place more “fun.” Because seeing Bob in accounting’s vacation photos during a work meeting just screams FUN to me. You know what would be fun? Cutting that out of the meetings so people can get out of there. You know what would be fun? Giving people a half day on Friday every so often. You know things that actually matter to people.

        1. Yorick*

          I see what you’re saying, but as long as it’s very brief, hearing about (and seeing photos of) a coworker’s vacation would be enjoyable for me.

        2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

          I worked somewhere where it was really, really common to share a bit about vacations. Like, it’s really normal? You go on vacation, people know you were gone because you presumably told them beforehand and then you were gone for awhile, and then you get back and people ask you “how was your vacation?” or even “OMG your tan is amazing, we need to see some pics of your vacation!” because, you know, it’s a perfectly normal and friendly thing to do?

          I mean, mandatory fun is rarely the way to actually make your office more fun, but if I were the CEO of a company where people, like, didn’t talk for 2 minutes about how their vacation was, I would be deeply concerned about my culture too.

          1. MCL*

            I’m all for asking how someone’s vacation was in casual conversation, but although I genuinely hope they had a great time and enjoy entertaining vacation stories, I’m not really hoping for more than a 5-10 minute casual conversation. I would not want to be forced to do this in a meeting. We don’t do this at my workplace and I have never worked anywhere where vacation presentations were a mandatory thing, so I guess if this were the office culture I might have a different take. I also don’t really love the idea that I would have to talk about my private vacation time with co-workers in a meeting setting, so I would probably be really boring and just talk about how the weather was.

            I also once had to sit through a very painful presentation my former boss did to an industry group where she used her vacation photos to tie into whatever her overall point about leadership was, and it was awful. I get that this is an extreme circumstance, but the result was that she had a captive audience watching her vacation slideshow for an hour long presentation. This experience may also be impacting my negative view of this practice!

          2. Emily K*

            To me there’s a pretty big difference between opt-in casual banter while everyone is getting settled, where someone who recently got back from vacation is definitely going to be asked how it was and will often talk about their trip until the meeting starts, vs a mandatory time slot on the meeting agenda that I’m not allowed to opt out of.

            The former allows natural/organic social dynamics to play out. People who aren’t interested will tune out the conversation, a recently-returned traveler who isn’t feeling up to telling stories can demur with something like, “It was fun but exhausting. It was definitely time to come home, and hopefully I’ll shake this jet-lag in a couple of days. What were you all up to while I was out? How did Project X with VIP Clients go?”

            Whereas the latter, it would come across as withholding or evasive if time was dedicated on the agenda for you to share visuals and you just shrugged and said something about being exhausting and having jet lag and you have no photos, and you can’t just change the subject or redirect the attention to someone else the way you can in an organic conversation.

            I like all of my coworkers and I chat with them about little things in the hall, the kitchen, before and after meetings, in the elevator. We’re friendly. But unlike this presentation scenario, I get to decide what I want to talk about and what I don’t. I can redirect the conversation to common and acceptable social banalities like “Scorcher one out there today!” or “How bout that local sports team?”

            As I mentioned elsewhere I would ultimately capitulate for the sake of not rocking the boat, but there would be no doubt in my mind that my employer had overstepped one of my boundaries and left me no graceful way out.

  13. Mary*

    >>I’ve been in touch with my manager and have been told that they haven’t told people what has happened, just that I will need a lot of support over the coming weeks, and that I will be on light duties only for a while.

    #4, would you prefer if your manager did tell people what happened, even if it’s a brief email to the ten people you worn with most often saying, “4 has experienced a traumatic death on the family, and would prefer not to be asked about it” or “4 is returning from compassionate leave after the traumatic death of her ex-husband, please support her by welcoming her back” or just a personal conversation with them. It’s absolutely fair enough to ask your manager to prepare the ground for you so the burden of explanation isn’t all on you.

    Good luck, and I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. Woodswoman*

      I second this idea. In the past, I was the person who emailed the message to colleagues on behalf of a widow I worked with when her husband passed away. She told me what she wanted me to share, and had me ask people to give her space so she didn’t have to talk about it. She only had to say it to me, not a big group, and then people respected her request. This worked out well for her. While the circumstances in your situation are not the same, perhaps the situation at work is comparable. If you’re comfortable with having your manager send that kind of a message, that might prevent uncomfortable conversations. I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this, and I wish you well.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This was going to be my suggestion as well. Ask either your supervisor or one of the two work colleagues that you’ve already talked to if they will pass along the information you are comfortable sharing and request that everyone respect your privacy beyond that.

  14. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

    LW #3, I don’t think you can get out of this without appearing potentially suspicious or antisocial, which sucks because I’ve had vacations I didn’t want to talk about much because they were my personal time.

    Anyway, if you and your coworkers can come up with short things to say, like a couple sentences each at most, that should work. You can say “We saw [x] and it was cool and the weather was nice” or “We drove through [y] and that was fun because I’d never been there.” If anyone prods you for details just stick to short, generic things like “It was very chill and relaxing” or “The change of scenery was refreshing.” Be confident while sticking to small bits and it should be enough.

    If someone really tries to pry for more details, you could say “I don’t wanna waste too much time on our trip back when we have [z] to cover” (depending on the meeting agenda, projects you’re returning to, etc).

    1. Terminally Dull*

      Be boring. Not necessarily truthful, but boring.

      “We decided to hit every Mickey D’s we saw for the Heck of it.”

      “I saw license plates from 23 states AND Saskatchewan!”

      “Susan’s an awesome driver!”

      “Jane was thrilled- we found a Stuckey’s to eat at!”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        True fact: Our college road trips were eventually built around the theory that any town large enough to have a McDonald’s was large enough to have something better than a McDonald’s. If they didn’t even qualify for a McD’s, no amount of Normal Rockwellesque vibe was going to save that grilled cheese.

        1. Emi.*

          My family road-trips on the principle that you should never stop for food or gas you can’t see from the highway (the big tall sign counts if there are trees). I once violated this rule in rural Illinois and it literally took me twenty minutes to get back on the interstate after I left the gas station.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Vermont was where we made this rule, after the same exit caught us twice. We got off, drove for five minutes, then said “surely we are almost there” and drove another five minutes, and so on through the 15 or 20 minutes necessary to reach the town, which had exactly 1 restaurant, a very slow diner with meh food.

            And this was when we had tiny kids in the car going to Grandma’s, so an extra 40 minutes of driving and hour of sitting still waiting for food were in no way welcome.

        2. Artemesia*

          Some of the best meals we have had traveling have been in ‘OUtback Nowhere’ where someone could direct us to Bob’s Burgers and then it turns out Bob is a burned out chef from Boston and is turning out fabulous gourmet goodies in this little dive. e.g. We had a stunningly good smoked salmon pasta dish at literally ‘Bob’s Burgers’ in a bend in the road in Eastern Washington. Best breakfast place ever was Ruby’s diner in Athol Mass or near there. There were McDonald’s and Waffle Houses etc but someone tipped us to Ruby and it was amazing. 4 of us had a feast — grilled blueberry muffins, home made corned beef hash with an egg, home made sausages, big glasses of OJ, French toast and pancakes and eggs etc etc. — for what I had paid for two buffets at the Hilton for breakfast the day before and the food was so much better.

          I understand not wanting to mix business and pleasure but life is easier if you go along with innocuous stuff like this without making a big deal about it. They aren’t asking you details of your honeymoon.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s not that we would eat at the McDonald’s–it’s that the presence of one suggested the existence of better food, which is exactly what you found.

            There are good gas station biscuits to be had in the South, but you need to know where–it is not the case that by being a gas station, it’s going to have great biscuits.

            It’s like people waxing on about mom and pop coffee shops, which in my experience was people handing me a cup of tepid water and directions to where I could get my own Tetley (the tea made from old socks) tea bag. Small local places run the gamut from incredible to blah–they are not uniformly incredible by virtue of being small and local.

    2. CM*

      It might actually be fun to turn this into an entertaining slide show, while keeping details about your actual trip to a minimum. Like if your coworkers have a favorite movie/TV show, you could have that be the theme. Then you could spend most of the presentation making silly jokes instead of talking about your actual vacation.

      Of course, you could also just spend two minutes saying, “Yeah, we did this thing, here’s a picture, the end.”

      1. Yorick*

        I would find that really weird. Just say a few words about your trip, or it will seem suspicious and antisocial.

      2. Eye of Sauron*

        I was thinking the same thing…. Something like show a couple of innocuous pictures of the OP and travel mates interspersed between pictures of Thelma and Louise or something.

        Honestly I’d probably have some fun with this mostly because I wouldn’t want to be the perpetrator of a boring vacation slide show.

  15. Massmatt*

    #1 maybe my experience is colored by having only 1 acquaintance with unlimited PTO but the situation there was everyone acted as though taking more than a day or so per month meant you didn’t love your job and there is something wrong with you. He would brag about having unlimited PTO but when asked when is the last time he took a vacation could only cite going to a doctor’s appointment. Oh, or not working on a Sunday. He said only 1 person in his group ever took a full week off and that was for a honeymoon. And yes, that person got some side eye.

    The only thing I can think of is this employer wants PTO taken for a full day but that makes no sense, companies with that limitation are tracking the PTO used precisely because it’s limited. Does your boss want everyone to take a full day for a doctors appointment?

    #3 you could always have fun with it and start off the presentation with “the road trip started off great but then I noticed this rash… oh and let me show you the pictures!” people will want to move on quickly!

    1. SpaceNovice*

      #1: I have definitely heard of places that say “unlimited PTO!” and then side-eye you any time you use it. There’s also some study that unlimited PTO doesn’t get used as much because everyone wants to appear dedicated. But if you have use it or lose it PTO, people take it and don’t get bothered, because people understand that you don’t want to lose the time. Then again, I’ve also heard of places that offer sick leave and then hassle you to work from home….

      #3: I shouldn’t laugh, but I did.

      1. Heat's Kitchen*

        #1 -I know a lot of my older colleagues say they don’t take vacations because they no longer have visibility into how much time they “should” be taken without a bank of PTO. I love it for days when I just have nothing on my calendar and want to take care of errands or chores or something. I rarely completely disconnect (always available via phone or email) but don’t feel guilty about taking my time at all.

  16. Crystal*

    LW #3 I’d be curious as to what your trip companions think of this! Yes, it’s weird but you’ll probably have to do it as others have mentioned. If the CEO is trying to make the office more “fun” and a group of coworkers road tripped home from a conference event I totally get why he/she wants y’all to do a little presentation. Lesson learned – don’t take the car rental money or even tell people you’re doing something like this next time.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, I’m definitely wondering how the others feel about this.

      Honestly, you run the risk of people wondering if you were up to something illicit if you refuse to share any information.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think knowing it happened–a Fun Thing involving several coworkers–is much bigger than the company technically paying for the business travel. They won’t ask for photos of the flights everyone took home (which they paid for), but would leap on a group Saturday hike or wine tasting (to which they contributed nothing beyond their regular salary that lets them make car payments).

      1. Yorick*

        I think so too. And it’s not some deeply personal trip, it’s a road trip after a business trip. It’s a perfectly normal thing that people at work would talk about and it would look really strange to refuse to share anything.

        I think a photo or two (if you have any good ones) and a couple of sentences (about how you liked the trip overall or about your favorite part) would be sufficient.

    3. OP3*

      Good question — they’re not happy about it, haha. I mentioned this in another comment, but more than likely my outgoing friend/coworker will deliver most of the commentary, while my very shy coworker/friend and I, someone who gets severe anxiety speaking in front of people, will stand by nodding and trying to get out of it without having to say much.

  17. kay*

    #LW i don’t get why you’d make this such a big deal. Just say a few sentences and maybe show a photo. You’ll look anti-social if you push back on this and I think most employees, in my experience anyway, are comfortable talking about the basics of a vacation so it will seem weird.

    1. E.*

      +1 Unless there’s something else going on here, this just doesn’t seem like a big deal (or even a “deal”), even if it’s slightly annoying.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, and if there is something else going on, just a quiet word in the right person’s ear should do it, if your workplace is at all normal. I once had two team members get married (separately) around the same time, and thought it would be fun to look at pictures in a team meeting (less than 10 people). One of them had a reason she didn’t want to relive Her Special Day, said that to me, and I dropped it. It was fine!

      2. Emily K*

        This is actually the kind of thing I would lowkey stew about. Where it’s such an easy thing to do that I know I can’t push back without looking precious, and yet at the same time I feel I shouldn’t have been asked in the first place, and now I’m forced to go along with it or else I’M the person making things uncomfortable. In my personal life, I would do what Capt Awkward says and push the awkwardness right back at them even if I’m perceived as rude for not obliging the request, but in my professional life I can’t afford to be perceived as rude*. These are the kind of little papercuts that would randomly pop into my head for days at a time and annoy me all over again every time I think about how this person used social pressure to overrule my agency.

        * Like the time a slightly junior peer who was not in my reporting chain spent his lunch doodling some landing page copy on a scrap of paper, and then walked to the scanner and sent me a PDF scan of his hand-written chicken scratch asking me to create a landing page for him with that copy. He has a computer of his own and he could have done his own typing, and the only other times in my life I have been expected to type someone else’s hand-written notes is when I was doing it for someone several pay grades above me. But it’s a short enough document I know I’ll look petty if I refuse to do the typing myself, so now I’ve been backed into a corner where I have to do work he should have done in the first place to “be the bigger person (sucker).”

        I just get salty about feeling like someone took advantage my desire to be helpful and agreeable to back me into doing something I never should have even been asked to do, so even though the photo request is ultimately a trivial request, it almost bothers me more that the triviality of it is being used to prevent me from having sufficient grounds to refuse to do something that isn’t my job or responsibility.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, what Emily K. said – this isn’t just a casual “how was your vacation”, this is over the top.

          FYI, when a co-worker asks me to do something that they should do and that I don’t want to do, I usually say something about needing to talk to my supervisor first. This frequently gets people to do their own work, and when it doesn’t, I at least know if my supervisor is OK with me spending work time on whatever it is.

      3. OP3*

        It’s not just that it’s slightly annoying. It’s that I feel like I’m having a panic attack (aka dying) when I have to speak in front of large groups. (I’m realizing now I should have included that part in my email … whoops!) If I have to present on a work-related subject, I suck it up and take a beta blocker, but seeing as how this isn’t work-related, I wish I just didn’t have to do it.

        My anxiety aside though, I still do think it’s unfair that we’re being forced to do something that’s been optional for other people.

    2. WS*

      The LW might just be a private person and uncomfortable sharing photos. I know I would be…but I agree that if it’s standard in that company, they need to suck it up and do the minimum. Or get the other two staff members to do it with them!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think most people are comfortable being asked about a vacation and talking about it, but taking time out of a staff meeting to discuss details? That’s beyond the norm of anything I’ve ever experienced. I mean, yes, I’ve gone to meetings where the first three minutes were taken up with vacation talk, but it’s very informal and certainly voluntary.

      I’m not a private person when it comes to my vacations, and I’d be so weirded out if the CEO insisted I share photos during a meeting.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I would as well, and I’ve gone on fun trips with my boss (that I arranged) or shown photos of fun things I did while on a business trip (on off-time, perfectly okay).

    4. MLB*

      I wouldn’t want to do it either. If I take my own time for a mini vacation, I don’t want to “present” that vacation during a company meeting. If that was the expectation (since they paid for the car rental), the company should have let them know before hand.

    5. essEss*

      I feel very icky about a company ordering an employee to give a presentation about their vacation. That is serious boundary crossing to *force* someone to discuss what they did on their personal time. It’s okay to ask, but when it becomes mandatory that makes an invasion of privacy.

    6. SpaceNovice*

      I think it would’ve been way better to tell them ahead of time to share some pictures. Then you could have taken some generic shots that weren’t invading your privacy to share. It’s sort of after the fact when they might only have shots they took for themselves (the photos you take for friends are different than those you take for work).

      LW, I might suggest going onto Yelp and Instagram and take some shots out of there, making sure to credit the people. “This is where we went, but we didn’t take photos.” Maybe if you’re handy with photoshop, the three of you can very obviously photoshop yourselves into the photos. Or something.

  18. E.*

    Re OP#3: I’m actually surprised the company didn’t cover (any) of the gas. But more to the point, I agree it will come off really strangely to push back against this more than you already have. I understand not wanting to do it, but a couple pics of some scenery or roadside attractions and a couple sentences of “we went through X, Y, and Z” just doesn’t seem like a big ask.

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 – “Does the CEO think that since the company paid for the car (but not gas, our Airbnbs, or food or drink) that he and the rest of the staff are entitled to hear about it?”

    No, I don’t think so. I’m not seeing any link in their minds between “we paid for the car” and “we want to see pictures!”

    Especially with “The practice of showing vacation or wedding pictures during a staffing meeting is something that has become more common in recent years, coinciding with the CEO trying to make the office more fun”.

    I know it feels like “they think I owe them!” but the two really don’t seem to be related. If you and your colleagues had taken time off for a trip together completely separate from work, it sounds like you’d still be expected to give a few minutes.

    Which may help with bad feelings about it – this isn’t because they paid for the car. They just like pictures.

    Would it be easier to do it as a group thing? Then you don’t need to say much.

    1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      I agree. I think it’s probably a well-intentioned attempt to make the office feel more “friendly” like “Oh, I’ll push opportunities for our employees to get to know each other as people and not just coworkers. Plus it allows them to talk about positive things in their personal lives,” when plenty of people really don’t want to blur those boundaries.

  20. Katie Beth*

    #3 – Just give a short, boring summary of where you went. Pull some photos off the internet to show so it feels less invasive. Name destinations and maybe even focus on city histories and main attractions rather than what you in particular did. This will be boring but should fulfill the presentation requirement.

    1. Stone Cold Bitch*

      This! And be deliberately dull if your group can pull that off.
      Talk about traffic or the weather. “Mordor was foggy, as you would expect at this time of year. But the drive to the Eye of Sauron was very pleasant as we avioded the peek Orc hours. There were also more gas stations than I would have expected.”

      1. Frodo Baggins*

        Yeah, but everyone knows that you use eagles to get back from Mordor :-P

    2. mf*

      It would be awesome if the OP turned this into a history lecture. Everyone’s eyes would glaze over in a hot second.

  21. Steph*

    OP4, I am so so sorry this has happened. I can only imagine what you are going through, at the moment, yourself and your children. I am so so sorry.

  22. Marlene*

    RE: #3 Whatever happened to meetings being meetings? Go in, do what’s needed, leave. Why do companies insist on “fun” and personal?

    1. Tardigrade*

      I’m with you. I once sat through an all-hands meeting where someone presented for 30 minutes on their three-day overseas trip. It did not feel fun and instead felt like our leaders did not value our time.

      All that said, if this is the culture and a thing that is done in that workplace, I think it would look odd for OP to refuse completely. Not a 30 min production of course, but a few statements and move on.

      1. Yorick*

        Oh, 30 minutes would be awful. But a couple of minutes and a photo or two would be nice, I think.

    2. Emily K*

      Ain’t no party like a Liz Lemon party, cuz a Liz Lemon party is mandatory.

  23. lost academic*

    OP #1, this is sadly how I see a lot of companies moving – “unlimited PTO” really means “unlimited flex time”. They fully expect you to meet the goals that are predicated upon taking very little time off for any reason. I believe that when some big name tech companies moved to this model, the amount of PTO taken went down – no one wants to be seen as taking advantage of the system. I think the advice isn’t good, here – saying you’ll take one of your “unlimited PTO days” is going to push a lot of buttons and is likely deeply against company culture, plus alienates your manager.

    1. Rosemary7391*

      Yeah, this is what baffles me everytime the concept comes up… over a year you get assigned a certain workload. Is it enough to occupy you for 44 weeks, 48, 52, 56…? How do you decide if PTO is “unlimited” ?

      1. Emily K*

        It would work better in some roles than others. In my role I don’t have a workload so much as I have baseline performance goals (revenue, customer retention, list growth) I must meet, and there are bonus incentives if I significantly exceed my goals. There is a basic relationship between the amount of time I invest in my work and how likely I am to meet my goals, but it’s a loose relationship and sometimes a small amount of work can have a big ROI.

        I could meet my baseline goals on a very minimal amount of work if I wanted to and worked smartly, or I could also make mistakes and work long hours but still fall short of my goals, or I could work overtime and far exceed my goals and earn a bonus, or anything in between. Whether I take 2 weeks of vacation or 4, there’s a certain amount of revenue I have to bring in, a certain number of repeat customers I need to secure, and so on. Unlimited PTO (in theory but often not in practice) rewards people who work smartly and can reach their goals while spending less time in the office.

  24. Drama Llama*

    LW4: I don’t mean this in an unkind way, but I don’t think your coworkers will care to know the details anyway. Everyone takes leave from work due to an intensely personal circumstance at some point in their lives. They’re not expected to give a detailed account of what happened. It’s totally fine to give a generalised answer (including “oh, just sorting out some family issues”). Most people won’t even register your absence beyond “Jane was away for some time and is back now.” It’s definitely not something worth stressing over.

    1. MicroManagered*

      +1 (and also not in an unkind way!!)

      I think if OP4 gets any questions at all, it’ll be just the first day or first few hours of the first day back. After that, people go back to focusing on their stuff.

  25. Lynca*

    OP#3- You point out that it has become more common for other people to show their vacation and wedding photos (which I don’t agree with) during meetings. So it’s not as if this has just come out of left field. I can completely sympathize with the feeling that it’s not okay to ask you to do it.

    There are some ways to compromise. One of your trip mates could do the small presentation for the group if they are more comfortable. As other said if you have to contribute, you can be pretty bland.

    1. Thlayli*

      “One of your colleagues can do it”

      This. This is the solution. I don’t see anything in the letter that implies they are looking for a group presentation- if one of the other people on the road trip stands up and shows a few photos and throws out a little spiel about the trip, job done. OP doesn’t have to do anything at all.

      It kind of seems like OP doesn’t want any of her co-vacationers to mention anything about the trip at all, yet there is no indication at all that the co-vacationers have a problem with it!

      OP if you are the only one bothered by this then you just have to suck it up. You don’t get to tell your friends that they aren’t allowed to talk about a vacation they went on! You can certainly ask them not to mention anything specific you want to hide, but you can’t put a blanket rule that they aren’t allowed to show anyone their photos or tell their story just because you happened to be there with them.

      On the other hand, if all three of you really don’t want to do this presentation, then that’s a different issue. There must be a pretty unusual reason for three different people to all feel this way – are you all extreme introverts? Extremely private? Hate public speaking? Is it about the principle of vacation being non-work time? Whatever it is I’m sure you can find a workaround that doesn’t require you to burn a lot of political capital by making this your hill to die on. For example if you all hate public speaking, just put together the slide show with captions And don’t actually speak at all. If it’s about privacy then just download photos of sights you went past and put a few comments about generic info about those sites rather than your own experience. Or whatever works for your particular issue.

      1. AMPG*

        Yes – I knew I’d get to this request if I scrolled down far enough. Your coworkers can do this. Nobody wants a long presentation, so just have one of them talk for two minutes and be done with it.

      2. OP3*

        Actually none of us are happy about it, and we wouldn’t do it if we weren’t being forced into it by the CEO. But you nailed my big reason for not wanting to do it: I have a phobia of public speaking, even for short presentations like this. If I have to talk in front of a big group for even 30 seconds, I will feel like I’m having a panic attack. (Hell, even if I raise my hand and ask a 5-second question, my heart will be beating out of my chest.) I said to another commenter or two that what will most likely happen is my one friend/coworker will do the vast majority of the talking.

  26. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    LW1 It seems like your manager a) doesn’t want people in and out during the day. b) doesn’t have clear guidelines on or weirdly interprets PTO.
    OK, then. I would take a half or full day off for appointments.

  27. Guitar Hero*

    Having to look at vacation photos in meetings sounds excruciating. That stuff is for lunch hour/break time conversations, not work time.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      So. Agree.

      At least in person, you can decide when you, personally, have seen enough.

  28. AdAgencyChick*

    #4, ask your boss to help! She can pave the way by telling people before you return that you’ve had a very serious family emergency and won’t be up to discussing it with other people.

    Years ago a boss did this for me when I was in a much less serious situation (I had broken my engagement and was afraid I’d be a mess if people asked about the wedding). A workplace as gracious as you’ve described will be glad to do this for you.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Very much this. LW#4, you have enough to deal with, so I say this without meaning it’s your problem, but your coworkers are just as unsure how to deal with this as you are.
      A brief conversation with your boss asking him/her to pass the word that you’ve had a family emergency and you want to take a break from it while at work would not only be helpful to you but to them.
      Most people are curious, concerned and caring so even for happy life events, it can be hard to navigate. Expectant parents might not want to talk about the pregnancy any more. Or the engaged person is done talking about the wedding. Having your boss set boundaries for everyone is a kindness.

  29. Bookworm*

    I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, #4. I’m glad you’re back to work and ready to resume your duties as you get back up to speed. Wishing you all the best.

  30. NYC Weez*

    OP#3: I worked with someone who highly valued their privacy as much as you appear to. I think what’s getting a little lost in all of the dialogue about whether or not to show photos from this particular trip is that there’s a big cultural gap here. It sounds as though your boss values an environment where people take a few minutes to connect at a personal level prior to business discussions. And I get that you value the ability to keep business separate from your private life.

    The person I knew resented almost all attempts to get to know them as more than just a coworker. But the problem was that the more they held strong to their desire for privacy, the more other people perceived it as hostility. There is a coded judgment against someone else when you say “I prefer to not share”, just the same way as you are perceiving judgment when someone says to you “You don’t share enough”. I know people who are very private at work. I don’t know how many kids they have or what their spouse’s name is. But they pick a couple bland things they are willing to talk about, like “I foster rescue dogs” so everyone perceives that they are joining in. Those people are far more successful at work than my colleague who didn’t want to say anything because their message to the group isn’t “No” but rather “Here’s something I will share”

    There are tons of ways to gracefully sidestep real intimacy with your coworkers, rather than just refusing. People have made a lot of great suggestions here in the comments. I would just recommend keeping a broader view of how to best maintain connections with your colleagues in a manner you can feel comfortable with, rather than simply standing firm on this particular point. If you don’t feel you can do that, just be aware that your refusal may be sending a more aggressive message to your coworkers than perhaps you are intending it to.

    1. NYC Weez*

      (Not that’s I think fostering pups is bland—I just couldn’t think of any other examples pre-coffee, lol)

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I like to keep personal and professional pretty separate so I talk about my hobbies at work when the situation arises. “How was your weekend?” “Oh, great – weather was gorgeous so I got in some really nice bike rides.” Or “Finally got to see [movie x] – I’ve been dying to see it!”

      And truth be told, I think that’s all people are looking for when you ask how someone’s weekend was. I know I’m not asking for the intimate details of someone’s personal life when I ask “How was your weekend?” or “How’s it going?” but I would perceive it as hostile if I asked how someone’s weekend was and she said she preferred not to share. There’s a big difference to me between “Fine thanks, how was yours?” and “I prefer not to share.”

      1. Parenthetically*

        There’s a big difference to me between “Fine thanks, how was yours?” and “I prefer not to share.”

        Yes. This falls under the “I acknowledge you, fellow human” category of language. Why make things frosty and distant when you can use the conventions available to you to keep things warm?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Someone hit this upthread–it’s not about soul-baring, but about a ritual exchange of “I acknowledge your humanity, fellow human.” The way this is done in different offices or on different continents varies, and does not have to make objective sense. Some places you say “You look fat today!” and some “Have you eaten rice?” and some “On our road trip we experienced a pleasant generic antidote. How was your weekend?”

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Yes. Also, some people just initiate conversation like that as a cue to talk about themselves. “Fine, thanks, how was yours?” can then lead to them talking for ten minutes about choosing the right flowers for their garden. If you throw it back to them, only the particularly nosy and intrusive people will say, “oh, no, give me more details about YOUR weekend,” they’ll just talk about themselves.

      3. essEss*

        Some of us have worked in place that believe that if you tell them something, then that gives them the right to criticize/judge/question/share/nitpick/expound on anything you tell them. This becomes exhausting and becomes a self-preservation to keep everything to oneself.

        1. paul*

          Those places are dysfunctional as hell though; the coping strategies you may need to use there are likely sub-optimal in healthier environments.

        2. Penny Lane*

          … to which you say “Thanks for your input!” and go ahead and do whatever the heck it was you wanted to do anyway. Because why on earth would you give the power to your coworker to decide what you should eat / wear / do this weekend / whatever? Learning how to effectively shut off unwanted advice and redirect (“how was your weekend?”) is an important life skill.

        3. Yorick*

          Then you can pretend to be part of the conversation but not give much info (“My weekend was great! I really enjoyed how sunny and warm it was!”)

    3. Oxford Coma*

      Excellent suggestion. I had a similar coworker at an old job, who blamed her intense need for privacy on habit from former military service. It made her seem even more intense and mysterious, and brought more attention to the issue than it would have if she’d come up with some random hobby to share.

      My favorite ‘I’m sharing but not really’ topic is themed cooking. Like, “This week I’m trying desserts made with vegetables. I made a great zucchini brownie.”

    4. Naptime Enthusiast*

      +1. My go-to answers to “what did you do this weekend?” are something about my dog, yard work, and maybe my nephew’s upcoming birthday party. Really, nobody WANTS to hear about anything more consuming than that unless we’re actually friends. Superficial but easy to connect to interests are plenty for most office settings.

    5. LQ*

      The best way to be private is to be so uninteresting in your personal life that people think they know just enough. Once after working with someone for several years I realized they thought I was married. Just because I’m of the age that many of my age are married. (I’ve been entirely single the entire time I’ve worked here.) People know a few innocuous tidbits about me. But they know enough to believe that I am human and that I understand they are human.

      The ultraprivate person often gets perceived as mysterious which makes someone with too much time and not enough decency go hunting for information. Hiding in plain sight is totally the way to go if you prefer to be actually private.

    6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      “I prefer not to.” – Bartelby the Scrivner
      I don’t think anyone came out ahead in that story.
      “Sometimes you have to do stupid things that suck.” – Not Melville

    7. Leslie knope*

      Yea, I think this concept gets lost here sometimes. I too am introverted and private but basic socialization with coworkers isn’t that difficult.

    8. OP3*

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It’s funny reading some of these responses to my email, especially the ones that think I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Giving a presentation at work on a non-work subject isn’t nothing to me because I have a public-speaking phobia. (I’m realizing now I should have included that in my original letter!) You’re right — I do value my privacy. But I’m also pretty friendly and haven’t minded sharing details of the trip with the people who have asked me about it directly. I would literally rather sit down with each one of my coworkers and explain my trip to each one individually than get up in front of the group and talk about it for two minutes, haha. But that aside, you’ve really taken the time to dispense advice in a kind and constructive way, and I so appreciate that!

  31. MicroManagered*

    OP1 Is there any possibility you’re misinterpreting the guidance you’re being given on using PTO in hourly increments? I take you at your word, but it reminded me of when I started my current position.

    When I started in my current position, I’d just gotten away from an extremely toxic manager who scrutinized everyone’s time to the minute (even though we were salaried.) I’m talking she’d get security to show her what time you swiped your badge to get through the door or make you submit PTO in 15 minute increments if an offsite meeting ended a little too early. One time she made my coworker take 10 minutes of PTO for what she considered an excessive bathroom break! But I digress…

    So when I started in an office that’s way more relaxed, I kinda didn’t know how to function. In my current position, if I want to leave for an hour for a doctor’s appointment, it would be assumed that I’d “make it up” or “flex my time” elsewhere that week and I’d never submit a PTO request for an hour. I’d most likely work through lunch or work on a project for an extra half hour even if it could really wait… but I would not be expected to rigidly occupy my chair for exactly 60 extra minutes that I would be asked to account for. It took a while for me to understand that and get used to it, so I’m just wondering–if your company’s PTO policy sounds like it doesn’t make sense, maybe it’s a misunderstanding of what they actually mean?

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      What you said seems to be pretty much the same thing they said though? You say it would be assumed that you would make it up later, which is exactly what the OP has issue with. For a company that stresses flexibility and unlimited PTO, you shouldn’t have to make up that hour at all unless there was something specific that needed to be done.

      1. MicroManagered*

        No, not really. In my situation, it would be assumed that the time would be balanced out somehow–but nobody is rigidly checking or asking me to account for the fact that I worked 7 hours on Monday but I worked 8.5 hours on Wednesday, and Thursday to make up for it. Nor would I be sitting in my chair for half an hour with nothing to do, just to say my butt was in the chair for the exact amount of minutes of my doctor’s appointment.

        I’m wondering if it’s possible that OPs “unlimited PTO policy” is similarly lax, but being misinterpreted as “butt must be in chair for exact number of minutes”?

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I think OP’s manager is misunderstanding things, myself. I really wonder if there’s any kind of employee handbook that could clarify things without OP having to query their manager again.

    2. Allison*

      I absolutely feel you on that! I too started out in a super rigid office, and even though I was only there for about 9 or 10 months, and I’ve been working in other, more reasonable environments for the past five years, I can’t help but feel anxious if I’m running late, like I literally picture that boss tsking, shaking his head, and saying my name slowly . . . or I feel like I need to stay late and make up time if I’m late or take a long lunch, even though my boss doesn’t care and often doesn’t even notice if she’s busy, as long as I’m doing my job well.

  32. Kinder gentler manager*

    I think I’m in the extreme minority here, but I’ve worked at many companies where salaries is really “40 hours expected.” In my current company it is very common to come in an hour early or stay a bit later to accommodate a doctor’s appointment without needing to dip into PTO. Of course using PTO is always an option as well, but it isn’t an option to just work less than full time if you are a full time employee.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Nah I think that’s fair. Full-time is still full-time and you’re generally aiming for 40 hours a week. You might not be punching a timeclock as a salaried employee so it’s a more general expectation where this week might be 38ish hours because last week was more like 45 hours due to workload.

      1. Allison*

        Exactly. I work late when I have a large workload and need to take the extra time, knowing it’ll pay off, but in slow periods where I’m generally in the office from 8:30 to 5 (our standard work hours, as stated in the handbook) just doing general industry research to kill time, it’s not a big deal if my work week ends up being slightly below 40 hours.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      If there’s any PTO that the OP wants to use, they should use it without the expectation of having to make up time.

      If this is a regular occurrence where the OP isn’t working however many hours they’re expected, that would be one thing. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, I think for many salaried people it’s more usual to have a week go over 40 than under. So if you worked 45, 42, 40, 41, 48, 39, and the extra 16 hours are not accrued to any bank because “you’re salaried” and then the last one is “oh no you are under 40! You need to make that time up by working late that day!” it’s an abrupt rule-switch to benefit the company.

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Ours is like this. I’m salaried but because of our projects we need to track our 40 hours per week and charge it to what we’re working, or overhead if needed. If we don’t hit our 40 by the end of the week we work until we do, but so many people hit their 40 hours early enough that appointments don’t even register on their time sheet.

      That being said, we can take PTO for appointments like OP is saying, but it’s the norm to just “flex” it.

  33. CMDRBNA*

    OP#2, no, you shouldn’t. If he’s interested in applying he can do so. I’ve gone through this before with friends asking for help in getting their resumes in front of hiring managers and then flaking, not returning emails, “getting really busy” or changing their minds but not doing the manager the courtesy of letting them know – then reaching out to me again. It does damage your credibility.

    My rule now is that I’ll help someone network ONLY if they can assure me up front that they’ll be prompt in replying, even if it’s to say no.

  34. hbc*

    OP1–Do your departments run pretty independently and not coordinate with each other? This smells like the HR department deciding it’s a waste of time to manage PTO and loving it as a selling point for recruiting, while your manager/department is more in “butts in the seat” Track Every Minute mode.

    If you think your department is out of step and the no PTO policy is supported in practice and spirit by bigwigs, I would raise the question of how the makeup policy meshes with the larger approach. But if you suspect the unlimited PTO is a farce, then maybe you can work with your manager on an unofficial tracking of PTO that makes them feel better about you working a 39 hour week every now and then.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, it might be a Manager thing more than a company thing. At my last salaried job, my boss was fairly easygoing about hours worked, so if I had to leave early by an hour or two, it was fine. I’d work extra to make up the time, but he didn’t stand over me making sure I was there, and on occasion I was told “oh, that’s not necessary, you’re salaried!” It helps if the work you need to get done is getting done despite the hour or so you had to miss.

      However, a coworker with a different manager had a different experience. Partly because her manager was more of a stickler, and partly because the work that department did was more time-constrained, urgent, and they were understaffed (not according to the company, but they could have been less stressed with another person or two), her manager insisted that she make up the time, even in 15 or 30 minute increments. Even though the job was salaried, there was still enough of a time crunch, and bad consequences if deadlines weren’t met, that the manager felt it necessary to make sure her employees were working the full time hours.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yeah, at this point, if he wants to work there, he’s going to need to do ALL the work of getting his name in front of them, if only to have any credibility.

  35. First Time Commenter!*

    “Because career switching is always a hard sell” –> I would LOVE to see an advice column on how to approach the switch, knowing it’s difficult!

  36. Marcy Marketer*

    #1 I’d say it’s definitly abnormal to need to have your butt in the chair for the exact amount of time of your doctors appointment on that day, but not unreasonable to expect you to stay late or come early another day that week. Salaried jobs in my experience don’t usually use PTO, unlimited or not, for doctors appointments; they usually just make up the time by working late occasionally (when a project requires it). Maybe you’re taking too many doctors appointments and that’s why your manager is doing this?

    1. Church Lady*

      How many, pray tell, are “too many” doctors appointments? Most people don’t make a doctor appointment for funsies. Now the boss could be straying into ADA territory!

  37. Boredatwork*

    OP #3 – I also hate this, mainly because I tend to take very expensive and lavish vacations, that when I talk about them with lower support staff, it comes across as bragging and just gross. I’ve never had to give a presentation but usually offer up a photo or two.

    Since you went with three other co-workers there’s a very good chance that this is going to happen, whether you like it or not and you’re going to come across as very cold and disinterested if you make this your hill to die on.

    You’ll be a lot happier with the finished product if you just get on board and help curate the message. The only thing worse than sharing vacation photos, is if they use one you’d be mortified if everyone at work saw it because if you refuse to participate that could absolutely happen.

  38. lsbc*

    OP3 – I’m kind of surprised that nobody has suggested the exact opposite approach: “Oh, we had a great time, took THOUSANDS of pictures!! I’ve scheduled the conference room for three hours to show them all!” Pretty sure that everyone will quickly find that they’re on tight deadlines and don’t have a minute to spare to see your pictures.

    1. Oxford Coma*

      I was going to suggest oversharing in an epic fashion that would cure the company of this weird problem permanently. “Yeah, we had a lot of late-night heart-to-hearts over a roaring fire. We realized we’re all cogs in a meaningless machine, marching inevitably to our own obsolescence. We were going to drive off into the sunset and leave it all behind, until we remembered that the car was in the company’s name. Also, Jane had a dentist appointment on Tuesday.”

  39. Alton*

    #3: Is it possible that he’s seeing the road trip as an extension of the work trip, and isn’t really thinking of it from the perspective of it being a separate, personal thing? And that what he’s essentially looking for is for the OP and their co-workers to provide a “fun” look at the work event? Not so much “This is what we did on vacation” as “Here are some fun things we got to see/do while going to [work event]!”

    What I’d probably do is share a few impersonal photos of scenery (if I had any) and say a few words about how it was fun to see the area.

  40. Not a Mere Device*

    How about something like “we had a good time, but there was nothing worth taking pictures of. There was a diner in the Emerald City that had wonderful bean soup, but we were too busy enjoying it and trying to figure out exactly what spices they used to think about taking pictures. We’re fairly sure there was cumin in there, and maybe some oregano. Dorothy said she thought they’d used ginger, or maybe galangal. If you want to check it out, it’s the Wizard Cafe, just off the Yellow Brick Road. The bean soup is the Thursday special. Ask for a toasted English muffin.”

    1. The Vulture*

      I like this, especially in the sense of, get excited about ONE weird/interesting/tasty thing that happened, even if it wasn’t a big part of your vacation, and by the time you get to the end of that, it’ll seem like you are a. enthusiastic and friendly and b. reached the natural end of this discussion, because really people allot a couple minutes for this, not “until we know all of the juiciest details”. And maybe it is the juiciest detail, perhaps you make it sound like you are REALLY into roadside produce stands and where all the best oranges are found.

  41. Jam Today*

    I’m totally with OP #3 here. I *loathe* telling people about my vacations for two reasons.

    1) I go to Europe every year or two, and usually spend my time kind kind of wandering around the city I’m in. I don’t usually “do” anything, and really don’t like explaining to people that my preferred vacation mode is to just putter around, because they usually have an opinion about what I “should” be doing.

    2) Telling people about my vacation has an unspoken expectation of reciprocity, in which they will tell me about *their* vacation, and there are few things I find more boring than listening to other people’s vacation stories. I won’t tell you about my vacation, if you promise not to tell me about yours.

    1. Snark*

      See, I feel largely the same way, but I just edit what I tell them. “Oh, Barcelona was wonderful – lots of little narrow streets and phenomenal food. Had some mind-blowing jamon iberico, and the tapas were amazing. TOPIC CHANGE!”

      You don’t get into the details of specific activities and stories and “and then we did X, and we got a great selfie at Y, and then that night….” narrative. Superficial, breezy, and topic change.

    2. Parenthetically*

      I’m a total city wanderer, and I don’t really “do” things on vacation by preference, so I get it. I just wonder why make it awkward with “I’d rather not talk about my vacation, sorry,” when, “Yeah, I had a great time in Budapest, what a city! I heard you went to Yellowstone, I’ve always wanted to go there. I’ve got to run, but I’ll catch you at the llama census meeting at 10, right?” will make it not-awkward?

      1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

        I agree with this. Really, it’s only like one step above saying “hi” or nodding at each other when you pass in the hallway. Sure, it’s a perfunctory social norm that doesn’t really communicate information, but it’s so small and easy and minor that just deciding you don’t want to participate in it anymore comes off as really weird, and off-putting for a lot of folks.

  42. krysb*

    I have unlimited PTO. This is not Unlimited PTO. I am able to take off whenever I want (but extended leave, I have to put in 2 weeks in advance), no one says boo when I have doctors appointments or decide to stay home for the day. I would say that I probably only work about 10 months of the year and use PTO for the rest, spread across the entire year.

  43. Lucy*

    I don’t know if any other commenters have mentioned this – both Alison and at least one other commenter have used variations on the phrase “hang in there”. It’s really jarring to hear this after a suicide. Especially if hanging was the means to the end, as it was in the case of my family member.

    1. sarah*

      I came here to say the same thing. This particular phrase is not a good choice for this topic, period.

  44. Marie*

    OP #4, I know that being in an abusive relationship can really mess with your sense of self, and your idea of norms in most other relationships. I may be projecting from my own past here, but I feel like I heard a little of that in your description of yourself as being incapable of lying, and your follow up comments about not wanting to upset others, and just your general concern for making your coworkers comfortable during an enormously difficult time for you (especially because they’ve already been kind).

    You may have had to lie in your past relationship to stay safe, or may have been accused of lying for things that are in no reasonable way lies (I once had a personal tragedy, told my husband it was hard but I wasn’t that upset, then a few weeks later it hit me and I said I guess I was upset after all, and had to endure a big fight about what a liar I was since I’d told him I wasn’t upset earlier). Not sharing the details of a personal issue isn’t lying. Giving vague details isn’t lying. And concerns about whether or not you’re lying wouldn’t be in the head of any reasonable person right now. Even if you provided a white lie and somebody later uncovered the truth, I would be surprised if they considered it lying even then.

    People may be upset to learn about this, but they’ll be upset on your behalf, because of their care for you. I’m just thinking off too many scenarios where I had something bad happen to me, and my husband was upset that I bummed him out by telling him about it. That is a bonkers way to react, as if other people are having hard lives AT you, as if other people’s sadness making you sad is a bug of human relationships and not a feature called empathy.

    I also wonder if you’re lowkey wondering when all of this will come “due”; after all, abusers rarely do something kind without it being contingent or expected to be repaid. I just remember having that immediate “what does this mean, what does he want” fear whenever my husband was kind, or imagining the future fight he would pick that would start with “and after all I did for you!” It was an effective way of making me not *want* him to be kind, and also get me to mistrust the kindness of others, as well as walk around with immense guilt about how horrible it was that I *made* others do nice things for me even though I’m a lying liar who makes others sad and don’t deserve their goodness.

    Just if any of that is underlying these concerns, know that you don’t live in a bizarre relationship world anymore. You are not at core a liar, nobody is even considering or watching for that, you aren’t being manipulative or hurtful by experiencing personal tragedies, and your work isn’t helping you because of any unstated secret purpose you have to guess at like a bonkers We Hate You, Specifically, Guess Why game show, they’re helping you because that’s what normal people do for one another in times of need.

    1. OP4*

      Oh wow Marie, I can relate to so much of this. Over twenty years of an abusive relationship preceded me leaving him. Thank you for your perspective.

  45. thelettermegan*

    OP4 – one thing you can do to move conversations away from recent events is to say that you’ve been looking forward to coming back to your workplace, the work you love, and the coworkers who have been so supportive. Then ask them what you missed while you were out.

  46. Me*

    I am also supposedly salaried and exempt, but am forced to make up small increments of time off. I’m going through a medical treatment, and have to leave early twice per week so I can get to the doctor’s office on time. Even though I brought in a doctor’s letter, and even though I finish my work for the day before leaving, my employer requires me to work an extra hour two other days per week to make up the time. (They also prefer that I come in early instead of stay late, but my work requires a lot of calls, and I can’t call people before 9am, so it’s a pretty big waste of time and an inconvenience.)

    They also require us to submit time sheets with exactly 40 hours per week, every week. If you’re even slightly short or over, your supervisor will make you resubmit your time sheet to show 40 hours, and then you have to either leave early or stay late to make up the time you were over or under. It’s bizarre, but they also take questions as personal criticism, and they react poorly, so there’s no room to ask why in the world they do that if we’re supposedly exempt.

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      Right, but even salaried exempt employees are supposed to be averaging 40 hrs/week ideally. For an odd appointment I would expect that to even out somewhere in the wash, but a regular appointment should be accounted for somewhere.

      It sounds like your employer is on the rigid side of things, but from your description it works out on both ends (leave early if over 40/make up time if under 40. As for the preference when you make up the time, that’s on your manager, no clue about that.

      1. Me*

        There are busy times of year when I regularly work 50+ hours per week, and I never get to take time off to make up for that. So no, it’s really not ok. I definitely average 40 hours, and all my work gets done. We also had an employee quit over six months ago, and I took on her work load without additional compensation or even a thank you. Yet, here I am, still required to come in early to make up for minimal time off for a serious medical appointment.

        38 hours per week is still considered full time, and still eligible for full benefits. There’s really no valid reason treat employees like crap, especially when they are sick.

  47. Manager Mary*

    OP #3, if it were me, I’d just act like I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would possibly want to hear about my trip or see the pictures. I’d stand up and say “well Boss was nice enough to approve our use of a car instead of a plane, so we road tripped from Catville to Dogtown. Along the way we slept twice, ate 6 meals, and saw the world’s largest frying pan! [insert picture of frying pan] And although I’m sure you’d love to hear about the 14 pit stops we made, I think you’d probably rather hear about the the Johnson report more so we can all go to lunch on time, so I’m going to turn it back over to Jane now. Thanks!” I would do it all with a really friendly tone, not a snarky or sarcastic tone, so it doesn’t come across as “I don’t want to do this” but more like “I’m being respectful of my coworkers’ time and really think this is all Boss expects of me.”

  48. LKW*

    OP 3 – Please consider pulling a ton of photos of sites that you might have seen or at which you might have stopped along the way. Put together a slide show of said tourist shots and just keep showing these. There’s nothing as dull as “And here’s the statehouse, there was a nice security guard George who gave us directions to the washroom” “Here is a picture of the interior of the statehouse. I don’t know when it was built. Here is the McDonalds on the highway. Here is the sign when you are leaving town. Here is the sign when entering town.”

    If anyone asks for action shots or pictures of the three of you -say that you didn’t take any or show ones that have are just a thumb covering the lens and non-descript feet.

    Make this painful.

  49. Beancounter in Texas*

    OP #4, if it really is too difficult to keep to the bare facts, ask someone you trust to spread a message you detail to them so that you won’t likely be repeatedly asked what has happened. You say it once and hopefully you only have to deal with any condolences extended.

  50. CBE*

    I am confused about #3. If you are so staunchly trying to keep personal and work separate, why are you road tripping with coworkers? You can’t have it both ways.
    Also, remember that people’s imaginations will fill in the gaps in salacious and gossipy ways. Probably not what you wanted.
    You brought work into your trip by vacationing with coworkers and arranging for company funding. While you don’t OWE them a report on the trip, it’s not unreasonable for the office to want to know how it went. It’s a normal part of interacting with other people.
    If you want complete separation/privacy, vacation with people you don’t work with, and don’t use the company to make arrangements.

    1. Jam Today*

      “Also, remember that people’s imaginations will fill in the gaps in salacious and gossipy ways. Probably not what you wanted.”

      All the more reason to keep them out of your personal life. The less access malicious gossips have to me, the better.

      1. Yorick*

        Even if they’re not malicious and gossipy, they’ll likely be curious about why 3 coworkers went on a road trip and won’t tell anyone about it.

          1. Yorick*

            Or people can assume that you’ve either done something horrible or are a strangely cold coworker, either of which can harm your work relationships.

            1. Jam Today*

              Demanding I divulge information about my personal time is also harming their working relationship with me, so we’re at a bit of an impasse, aren’t we?

  51. DCGirl*

    Showing vacation pictures in a conference room is taking me back to my childhood. Whenever my grandparents would return from one of their long driving trips across the country, we’d all have to spend an evening at their house watching my grandfather show his slides and describe every single one of them. I’d thought those days were long past, LOL.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Thank you! I remember evenings of watching slide shows at my grandparents’ house — those were interesting because they were of events I’d been present at. That’s an important caveat there.

  52. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

    See, I don’t think the CEO is actually asking anything more than 3 minutes at the top of the meeting, and maybe 1 or 2 pictures. It’s a trip that 3 people at the company went on, everyone knows about it, and when they get back to the office everyone will inevitably ask OP and their coworker friends “how was your road trip?” It’s literally just giving the same answer to everyone at once instead of giving the same answer 40 different times over the course of the next week. If you don’t want to talk much about your vacation, getting it out of the way is a pretty efficient way to do that.

    The defensiveness here is approaching “we went to 14 strip clubs” or “we hit and runned someone” levels. I don’t think OP did either of those things, but if you are truly unwilling to just answer the question “how was your road trip” at work, then yeah, people are gonna assume there’s a really big reason for that, because it’s an extremely normal thing to ask a coworker, especially when that vacation involved 2 other coworkers and was tacked on to a company trip.

  53. Delphine*

    Wonder what would happen if OP3 hadn’t taken any pictures. I’m not in the habit of photographing vacations.

    OP3, let your friend pick a few photos and give the presentation. This is irritating, but if the CEO is asking, you may not be able to push back too much.

  54. mf*

    #3: You know how you always try to take photos from the passenger’s seat during a roadtrip and they turn out terrible?

    Those are the photos I’d show. And I’d be REALLY boring in my presentation. “And this is the town where we stopped for lunch. I had a burger and Bob had pancakes. And then we drove some more. This is the town where we stopped for a bathroom break a few hours later. It was a Shell and I bought two packs of gum…”

    They’ll never ask you to talk about your vacation again.

  55. Buu*

    For #1 this is weird, they haven’t thought the system through because otherwise the sensible thing to do is just book a day or half day off any time you have the Doctors!

  56. Marmalade*

    For OP3
    I am the type who likes to keep work and personal as separate as possible and, dislike public speaking in any capacity. I would do what I need to to not have to present anything. But I somewhat agree with other commentors that if it’s been in the culture for some time now then saying something brief might be the best. I don’t believe it has to be more than a sentence or two as long as its friendly. If there’s a picture requirement for this presentation then that’s strange but I agree with using some generic photo someone in your group took or one found from the internet.
    And like others have said, if you don’t want to present then ask one of the coworkers who might be ok with it.

  57. Free Meerkats*

    For #3.

    “And here’s the front gate to the Bunny Ranch near Reno. Did you know they cater to all genders there? Here’s a picture of the Ron Jeremy Patio. Did you know one woman there is over 6 feet tall? And another under 5 feet? There’s a Pony Express plaque there, too!”

  58. TootsNYC*

    OP#4, the husband of a colleague of mine passed away recently.

    When she was ready to come back (going stir-crazy, needing the contact, bustle and activity), she sent an email to her boss asking that we not try to have a conversation with her about it, so that she could focus on the work, since the work was the healing part of it.
    Her boss forwarded it to us all (there wasn’t anything touchy in it), and we all complied.

    At the end of the day, I finally made it over by her, and at some point I said, “I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t ignoring you; I was ignoring you on purpose.” Which she thought was funny.

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